A National Historic Landmark
Also known as Medical College of Georgia
Richmond County, GA
Designated an NHL: 06/19/1996
The Old Medical College Building is of national significance under Criterion 1 of the National Historic Landmarks Program. Criterion 1 is met because of its impact on the medical instruction of physicians nationwide, and its involvement in the establishment of the American Medical Association.
Most physicians practicing in the United States at the time of the Medical College of Georgia's opening in 1829 received their training not from study at an American medical college but through apprenticeship with a local practitioner. The quality of such training varied from physician to physician. Formal medical school education in the United States had its beginnings in 1765 when Pennsylvania physicians John Morgan and William Shippen, both trained in European schools and by American physicians, organized a medical department at the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania). By 1820, thirteen such schools operated in the United States. When the MCG was chartered in 1828, the Southern states could claim five medical colleges in operation (University of Maryland, 1807; Medical College of South Carolina, 1823; Columbian College [later George Washington University Medical Department], 1825; and University of Virginia, 1825).
Typical of medical schools throughout the country in the 19th century, the MCG's faculty members were basically practitioners from the area in which the school was located Augusta and Richmond County. Atypical of the many 19th-century medical school faculties that established medical schools as businesses for profit and prestige without much concern for educational standards, the group that formed around Antony took quite seriously their positions as instructors of future healers. Also atypical of medical school faculty at the time, early MCG teachers all held degrees from recognized medical schools and also supplemented their educations with medical study in Europe. The core members of this original faculty, plus a few who joined during the school's first decade, chose to stay there as teachers for many years, showing a dedication to medical education unusual for the time. Among this group of key teachers who made the MCG a recognized institution in antebellum America's medical education circles were several who earned regional and national reputations among their contemporaries as educators, practitioners, medical writers, and leaders of the profession.
Feeling keenly the competition as students selected the shorter route to a medical degree by attending rival institutions with lower standards, the MCG faculty, in 1835, tried to unify medical education programs across the United States. Ultimately, a national meeting was held, though on a much larger scale than that advocated in the MCG faculty's call-to-action. In 1846 in New York, and the following year in Philadelphia, representatives from medical schools, medical societies, hospitals, and other medical institutions across the nation came together to discuss common problems including the regulation and standardization of medical education. As a result, the American Medical Association was established. The MCG was represented at all these meetings, continuing a tradition that had begun in the mid-183 Os and lasting to the Civil War, of faculty involvement in national medical politics.
Another crucial way the MCG was significant in the antebellum American medical profession was through its journal, the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal. Founded in 1836 by the seemingly indefatigable Milton Antony, the SMSJ was one of only about twenty medical journals in the country by 1847 and the first to be established in the heart of the South. Sponsored by the Medical College of Georgia, the SMSJ, proudly displaying an illustration of the Medical College Building on the cover of every issue, carried the school's name, picture, and news into the homes and offices of its readers.