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Celebrating 152 Years At Howard University College of Medicine

Nov 09, 2020 08:00AM ● By Kassidy Garland
howard university college of medicine

152 years ago, Howard University College of Medicine opened its doors, holding its first classes. The first opening exercise for the new Medical Department was held at the First Congregational Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. on November 5, 1868. Classes officially began on November 9th with seven Black students and one White student. Among the five faculty members was the first African-American medical school faculty member, Alexander Thomas Augusta. 


In 1867, Howard University was established to accommodate the growing population around Washington, D.C. after the Civil War and was named for Major General Oliver Otis Howard, the “Christian General” from Maine. General Howard was appointed as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, and finding that newly freed Black citizens were moving from the South in order to find better opportunities, the framework for Howard University began.

The intent of the university’s beginning was to help uplift African-Americans after the Civil War and their previous enslavement. The university was open to all races, sexes, and all social classes, but to this day, Howard University’s student population is mostly African-American. Originally to begin as a seminary for Black members of the South, it was then changed to include education for teachers. Eventually, Howard University included the following schools: normal and preparatory, collegiate, theological, medicine, law, and agriculture becoming a University. 

In 1871, still in its early stages, HUCM’s requirements for admission included basic math, English education, some understanding of Latin, and a strong moral character. It wasn’t until years later that Howard would also add a high school diploma and eventually, two years of a college education, which is very different from today’s standards of a four-year degree.

At first, the school held only evening classes due to the majority of students working full time jobs during the day. You were able to earn your medical degree in five years of these evening classes, but as of 1910, the standard four-year program that you see most often today was initiated. 

Howard University College of Medicine has produced a large portion of the African-American physicians practicing in the United States. Since its beginning, over 150 years ago, HUCM has taken special care to accommodate health needs of underserved communities. In addition, the university was known for its early acceptance and celebration of training female doctors, including Dr. Sarah Garland Jones, the first African-American and the first woman to be certified to practice medicine in the state of Virginia.

Today, The HUCM is accredited by Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Medical Association (AMA). The Howard University College of Medicine has also received notice of full accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). 

Howard University College of Medicine still has quite an effect on the Black Community, with many prominent figures gaining their education at this historical and accredited university.


 Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine.