A Summary of PCOM's Rich History
When osteopathic schools were forming throughout the country in the 1890s, two doctor
of osteopathy (DO) students at the Northern Institute of Osteopathy in Minneapolis,
the Reverend 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 practicing osteopathist in the city.
Drs. Pressly and Snyder followed through with their vision in the late 1890s, 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 the institution’s doors to students and patients.
In September 1899, the first PCIO degree was awarded to a transfer student. The first
PCIO class was composed of one woman and one male MD, and graduated in February 1900.
It was not long before the early graduates formed the Alumni Association.
News 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, the 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 Great 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, and
welcomed many returning GIs into the classes of the late 1940s and 1950s. 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 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.
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 (4190), acquired in 1977, was renovated into
classrooms, laboratories and medical offices and later named Rowland Hall after PCOM’s
fourth president. The renovations and shift of offices from Evans Hall to Rowland
Hall enabled departments remaining at the 48th Street building to join the rest of
the College. These changes—paired with the building of outpatient offices—supported
the recruitment of additional clinical and faculty members. At the same time, new
programs in osteopathic education were created, residency programs were expanded,
and a School of Allied Health was established.
In tandem with the purchase and renovation of Rowland Hall, the institution took on
a new name: The Osteopathic Medical Center of Philadelphia (OMCP). Although the Board
of Trustees adopted the name in 1980, the official corporate name remained Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). In 1990, the name was abandoned; PCOM was
In keeping with the College’s mission to train primary care physicians, PCOM opened
a rural Healthcare Center in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, and three Healthcare Centers
in urban Philadelphia neighborhoods. [Today, the Healthcare Centers provide care to
medically underserved populations while acting as key sites for the clinical education
of PCOM students from the DO, physician assistant and psychology programs.
The addition of non-DO academic programs to the curriculum starting in the early 1990s
began a new era of diversification for PCOM. In 1993, the College launched a graduate
program in biomedical sciences. Recognizing a need for primary care mental health
providers, the College began a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology program
in 1995. And in 1998, the College added a Master of Science in Health Sciences—Physician
Assistant Studies program. Master’s degree programs in organizational development
and leadership and forensic medicine were added in 2001 and 2002, respectively. In
2002, the Psychology Department expanded to include school psychology programs. Six
dual-track degree programs were extended as options for students from the osteopathic
medical program as well as students in the graduate programs and from partnering institutions.
Strategic partnerships—from “home base” clinical teaching fellowship partnerships
To expand and modernize its campus, PCOM embarked on an ambitious campus overhaul
from 1995 to 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.
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 College achieved another milestone in 1999, when it became accredited by the Commission
on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. In 2014,
PCOM received reaccreditation status, and will be reviewed again in the 2023-2024
In 2001, the College purchased the former City Avenue Hospital. The building was razed,
and the College sold a parcel of land to neighbor WPVI Channel 6. Investment income
from the sale has been used for need-based student scholarships; the remaining acres
will accommodate future construction.
Master’s degree programs in organizational development and leadership and forensic
medicine were added in 2001 and 2002, respectively. In 2002, the Psychology Department
expanded to include school psychology programs. Six dual-track degree programs were
extended as options for students from the osteopathic medical program as well as students
in the graduate programs and from partnering institutions. Strategic partnerships—from
“home base” clinical teaching fellowship partnerships increased.
The Center for Chronic Disorders of Aging, supported in part by the Osteopathic Heritage
Foundations, was created in 2003 to enhance basic science and clinical research at
the College. In 2008, the Food and Allergy Research Initiative was created. In 2012,
a chief scientific officer was appointed with the task of bolstering research processes
and procedures and identifying research opportunities within the College and beyond.
Competency-based assessment as a method to train students was propelled by the College’s
acquisition of a full-body, programmable human patient simulator, METI HPS, in 2003.
Today, an 11,000-square-foot Clinical Learning and Assessment Center—a $2,352,000
leading-edge instructional technology and state-of-the-art management system—is the
most recent investment for the training of future osteopathic physicians and health
In 2005, the College opened its branch campus, Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College
of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) in Suwanee, Georgia, with a focus on helping to
fill the need for more healthcare professionals in the South. In 2009, the campus
expanded to add PCOM School of Pharmacy – Georgia Campus. GA-PCOM offers professional
doctoral degree programs in osteopathic medicine and pharmacy, and a master’s degree
program in biomedical sciences. GA-PCOM is positioned for growth on many fronts.