The Early Years

The Marshall University School of Medicine was established in the 1970s through federal legislation which authorized the creation of five new medical schools in conjunction with existing VA hospitals. The West Virginia Legislature appropriated funding for the school in 1975, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education granted provisional accreditation in 1977, and the first class entered in January 1978 and graduated in 1981.

In its early years, the school focused its most intense energy on building a strong faculty and a sound academic program, laying a foundation in biomedical research and establishing the partnerships that would be integral to its success as a community-based medical school. The school also developed primary care and rural health programs that would become cornerstones for its growth in the coming years.

The 1980s and 1990s

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the medical school greatly increased the scope and depth of its clinical services, as well as saw steady growth in the development of its research program. Marshall’s research efforts received a strong boost from the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR). The EPSCOR grant allowed the school to establish a research program in cell regulatory biology, facilitating interdisciplinary research in the regulation of cellular function and establishing state-of-the-art facilities for molecular biology and cell culture.

Despite having one of the nation’s smallest biomedical science (BMS) programs, Marshall’s per capita extramural funding for BMS faculty in 1996 ranked above the 30th percentile for all U.S. medical schools.

Marshall received stand-alone Ph.D.-granting status for its Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program in 1992, and it created a graduate program in forensic science that quickly gained national prominence.

In addition, the school developed and piloted several innovative education programs that focused on stimulating students’ interest in rural practice, as well as an accelerated family practice residency.

New Facilities with Room to Grow

By the mid-1990s, the need for new and expanded clinical space as well as new research and preclinical teaching space became clear. Beginning in 1998 and the decade that followed, Marshall saw the completion of five new clinical, educational and research buildings with an investment of more than $120 million—the VA Research addition, the Marshall University Medical Center, the Robert C. Byrd Biotechnology Science Center, the Erma Ora Byrd Clinical Center and the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The new facilities helped the school respond to new educational requirements, accommodating increased faculty size and a dedicated clinical skills lab. Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Neuroscience and Ophthalmology were added. With modern medical advances and the easing of the state’s acute shortage of primary care physicians, Marshall’s mission broadened to enhancing retention of both primary care and subspecialty physicians, as well as improving distribution. The new resources supported the school’s maturation process by allowing it to increase its class size.

Two additional facilities were constructed in 2011—the Charles H. McKown, Jr., M.D., Translational Genomic Research Institute and a Rural Health and Clinical Education Center, both of which further increased the school’s capacity for research and education. Clinical training opportunities have greatly expanded through the acquisition of several local practices, buildings and most recently, through the purchase of a 51,000 square foot, three-story office building, which is being converted to medical offices.

Under the direction of Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., the school’s fifth dean, Marshall has continued to build on its mission of educating a physician workforce for the Appalachian region. In 2015, the school enrolled its first class into the newly created BS/MD program for West Virginia students, which allows them to complete their bachelor’s and medical degrees in just seven years. A new partnership with St George’s University of London Medical School was also established, paving the way for global clinical and research opportunities for students at both schools. Graduate Medical Education also expanded in recent years to include residencies in psychiatry and dentistry and fellowships in sports medicine (family and community health), nephrology and hematology-oncology.

Consistency in mission and innovation in execution characterize the medical school’s history. Its small size and community integrated structure have helped make the school uncommonly responsive to the region’s educational and health care needs.

Interested in the history of the Cabell County Medical Society? Click here for information provided by Hoyt Burdick, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Cabell Huntington Hospital.