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early History

Meharry Medical College and The School of Medicine both began as a promise kept by Samuel Meharry in response to a kindness extended to him one rainy night in the 1820s. Meharrians know this account as The Salt Wagon Story.

In 1876, the Meharry Medical Department of Central Tennessee College admitted its first 11 students. Two faculty members, Dr. William J. Snead and Dr. George W. Hubbard, taught classes in the basement of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church. Within ten years, Meharry added programs for nurses and dentists and distinguished itself as the medical institution for people of color.

A few important milestones from this period:

  • Meharry Medical College was the first medical school in the South to offer four-year training.
  • Meharry's first graduate, Dr. James Monroe Jamison, was the first African-American physician to formally be trained in the South.
  • Meharry's first female graduate, Dr. Georgia E. L. Patton, received her medical degree on February 16, 1893.

At least 14 Black medical schools existed between 1865 and 1910, when Abraham Flexner released his critique of American medical training for the Carnegie Foundation. Known as the Flexner Report, it called for standardized and regulated practices in medical education. Meharry was one of only two African-American medical colleges to meet the academic standards of the Flexner Report. Five of the other schools closed after that.

Click here to learn how Meharry Medical Department became Meharry Medical College.