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PCOM History


A Summary of PCOM's Rich History

When osteopathic schools were forming throughout the country in the 1890's, two students at the Northern Institute of Osteopathy in Minneapolis, the Rev. Mason W. Pressly and Oscar John Snyder, targeted Philadelphia as a future home for an osteopathic college. While the "City of Brotherly Love" had a rich history of medicine, it had but one "osteopathist" by the time Pressly and Snyder graduated in 1898 and 1899, respectively. The two doctors of osteopathy (DOs) followed through with their vision, incorporating Philadelphia College and Infirmary of Osteopathy (PCIO) on January 24, 1899. They rented two rooms in the Stephen Girard Building at 21 S. 12th Street -- the first of many homes for the College -- and opened their doors to students and patients. In September 1899 the first PCIO degree was awarded to a transfer student; the first PCIO "class," comprised of one woman and one MD, graduated in February 1900. It was not long before the early graduates formed the Alumni Association.

The word of osteopathy spread quickly in Philadelphia. As the number of students and faculty grew, the College moved to larger quarters, establishing its first "campus" at 33rd and Arch Streets, a suburban neighborhood in West Philadelphia. In a mansion surrounded by grassy lawns, a tradition of student life started with the organization of athletics, professional societies, fraternities and sororities. By 1906 the College opened the Osteopathic Dispensary at 1617 Fairmount Avenue, forerunner of the Osteopathic Hospital of Philadelphia. The College moved to 1715 N. Broad Street (1908-1912), then to 832 Pine Street in the city's Society Hill section, where a hospital would come to fruition at 410 S. Ninth Street.

After many prosperous years on Pine Street, PCIO bought its first building at 19th and Spring Garden Streets in 1916. The College, officially renamed Philadelphia College of Osteopathy (PCO) in 1921, added a new hospital to the rear and acquired two adjacent townhouses -- one for additional classrooms and clinics, the other for a nurses' home. A Training School for Nurses and Department of Free Clinics were established in the Hospital, which featured a surgical amphitheater. The clinics would become a critical component of practical instruction for generations of students.

Expanding again, PCO was completing construction of a new collegiate Gothic-style college and hospital building at 48th and Spruce Streets on the eve of the Depression. Times were tough, but with strong leadership from the board of directors and others, PCO weathered the storm. The 1930s was a time when the curriculum expanded, pre-osteopathic and graduate schools started and PCO created the profession's first Department of Osteopathic Research. It was also a time when the clinics, known for their "booth doctors," played an increasingly important role in providing health care to the community.

During the war years, PCO accelerated the curriculum from four years to three, then welcomed many returning GIs into the classes of the late '40s and '50s. Medicine was becoming more specialized and complex, increasing the need for clinical training. In 1951 PCO acquired Women's Homeopathic Hospital at 20th Street and Susquehanna Avenue, making it into a satellite facility called North Center Hospital. Many PCO medical students, nurses, interns and residents trained here.

In time, 48th Street no longer met the needs for state-of-the-art medical education and patient care or the demands for larger class sizes. In 1957, the former Moss Estate was acquired at City Avenue and Monument Road. The Frederic H. Barth Pavilion of the Hospitals of PCOM opened in 1968, and Evans Hall, the classroom, library and laboratory building, was completed in 1973. An adjacent five-story office building, acquired in 1979, was renovated into classrooms, laboratories and medical offices and later named Rowland Hall after PCOM's fourth president. During the 1970s, PCOM enhanced the basic sciences by recruiting many PhD faculty members, instituted new programs in osteopathic education, expanded residency programs and established a School of Allied Health.

In keeping with the College's mission to train primary care physicians, PCOM opened a rural health care center in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, and several other health care centers in urban Philadelphia neighborhoods. The centers provide care to medically under served populations while serving as key sites for the clinical education of PCOM students--not only DO students but physician assistant and psychology students as well.

The addition of non-DO academic programs to the curriculum starting in the early `90s began a new era of diversification for PCOM. In 1993, the College started a graduate program in Biomedical Sciences that offers  a a master of science degree track with three concentration options. Recognizing a need for primary care mental health providers, the College began a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology program in 1995. PCOM's Department of Psychology has expanded to include a Master of Science in Counseling and Clinical Health Psychology, a Master of Science in Organizational Development and Leadership, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, an Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, a Master of Science in School Psychology, a Doctor of Psychology in School Psychology, a Post-doctoral Certificate Program in Clinical Health Psychology and a Post-doctoral Certificate Program in Clinical Neurospychology.

With an eye toward the increasing teamwork within health care, the College added a Master of Sciences in Health Sciences--Physician Assistant Studies program in 1998. A unique collaboration with the University of Sciences in Philadelphia (USP) offers students a five-year program that results in a bachelor of science degree from USP and a master of science from PCOM. The DO program has also added new programs in affiliation with other institutions that give medical students more career options. Three joint programs are offered: a DO/MBA with St. Joseph's University, a DO/MPH with Temple University and a DO/PhD in Health Policy  and a DO/PhD in molecular biology with USP.

The College has also added two programs in forensic medicine: Master of Science in Forensic Medicine and a Pathway Program in Forensic Medicine. These programs provide health care professionals such as physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and paramedics with advanced knowledge, skills and credentialing.

To expand and modernize its campus, PCOM embarked on an ambitious campus overhaul from 1995-1999. An Evans Hall addition was built to include a modern OMM lab, classrooms, Office of Admissions and cafeteria. Evans Hall, Rowland Hall and the Levin Administration Building were renovated, and landscaped greenery gave the College a true campus feeling. In 1997, a larger, state-of-the-art PCOM Healthcare Center -- Cambria Division opened a block from the old site. The final phase of the campus overhaul was completed in 1999 with the opening of a 55,000 square foot Activities Center. The Center includes exercise equipment, student lounges and basketball and racquetball courts. The Philadelphia 76ers use the Center as its practice facilities.

The College achieved another milestone in 1999; it became accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The same year, PCOM opened its new, expanded PCOM Healthcare Center -- Roxborough Division on Henry Avenue in Philadelphia. Renovations to the College's West Philadelphia healthcare center, Lancaster Avenue Division, were soon begun. The Center is now three times the size and includes updated exam and procedure rooms and a pharmacy.

Although the College's priority is solidly focused on teaching, research is playing an increasingly important role. PCOM's sponsored research projects are at an all-time high. Besides research, another growth area for the College is the use of technology in education. PCOM's goal to increase technology was boosted by a $1.4 million federal grant to establish a Center for Medical Informatics, Education Outreach. This project involves putting course materials on the Web as a complement to the classroom, wiring classrooms so Internet resources can be accessed and hooking up the affiliated teaching sites so information can be shared between the College and the sites.

In November 2001, PCOM said good-bye to President and CEO Leonard Finkelstein, DO and welcomed new President and CEO Matthew Schure, PhD.

Also that year, the College purchased the former City Avenue Hospital building adjacent to the campus. The building was razed, and the College sold a one-and-a-half acre parcel of land to neighbor WPVI Channel 6. The televison station has used the site for it's new state-of-the-art production facility. Investment income from the sale will be used for need-based student scholarships. The remaining two-and-a-half acres can accommodate the construction of two additional College buildings.

In 2002, the College purchased a human patient simulator for use in its Clinical Learning and Assessment Lab. STAN, short for Standard Man, is a sophisticated mannequin that breathes, has a heartbeat, pupils that react to light and medication, a pulse that can be felt at five locations and lung sounds. He can even talk. STAN can be programmed to mimic almost any medical situation that might occur and accurately mirrors human responses to such procedures as CPR, intravenous medication, intubation and catheterization. The Clinical Learning and Assessment Lab has since been expanded to include a birth simulator, a laparoscopic simulator, and endoscopic simulator, cardiac cathetrization simulator in additon to other state-of-the-art training simulators.

The Center for the Study of Chronic Diseases of Aging was created in 2003.

The mission of the Center for Chronic Disorders of Aging (CCDA) at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine is to improve the quality of life for all individuals suffering from age-related chronic diseases and disorders. The CCDA promotes a better understanding of the nature of chronic disease processes by supporting basic and applied investigations and providing educational opportunities for the community, scientists and health care professionals. The CCDA furthers its mission through an interdisciplinary approach combining scientific research, education, and clinical application into chronic diseases and disorders associated with the aging process. The CCDA is supported, in part, by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation.

In 2005, the College opened a branch campus in Georgia. The mission of Georgia Campus-- Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Suwanee, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, is to help fill the need for more physicians in Georgia and the surrounding states. The Georgia Board for Physician Workforce reports that Georgia's physician supply is not keeping up with the increase in population and that physician shortages will make access to care in rural and inner cities more difficult. Because PCOM places a strong emphasis on training primary care physicians, many of whom practice medicine in traditionally underserved areas, creating a branch campus in Georgia was a natural fit for PCOM. One of the goals of the campus is to train students from Georgia and the surrounding southern states who will remain in the area to practice. The GA-PCOM also offers a master of science degree and a certificate in biomedical sciences.

The GA-PCOM School of Pharmacy opened its doors to the charter class in August 2010 after achieving successful approval from all of the appropriate accreditation agencies. The School currently holds candidate accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).