History of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
When osteopathic schools were forming throughout the country in the 1890s, two students
at the Northern Institute of Osteopathy in Minneapolis—the Rev. Mason Wiley 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 Drs. 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 South 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 an alumni association. By the end of the first year, the College outgrew its space in the Stephen Girard
Building. The academic year beginning February 1, 1900, commenced in PCIO’s second
Center City location: the newly built Witherspoon Building at Juniper and Walnut Streets.
From 1900 to 1903, PCIO occupied the entire south side of the sixth floor with classrooms,
clinical facilities and laboratories.
The word of osteopathy spread quickly in Philadelphia. As the number of students and
faculty grew, the College moved to larger quarters in 1903, establishing its first
“campus” at 33rd and Arch Streets, a then-suburban neighborhood in West Philadelphia.
In a seven-story Victorian stone mansion with gas lighting and a big wrap-around porch,
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, a
three-bed facility for the underprivileged of the community seeking osteopathic treatment.
The College moved to 1715 North Broad Street (1908-1912), then from 1912-1916 to 832
Pine Street in the city's Society Hill neighborhood, where the Osteopathic Hospital
of Philadelphia, the first osteopathic hospital to be chartered in Philadelphia, would
come to fruition around the corner at 410 S. Ninth Street.
After four prosperous years on Pine Street, PCIO bought its first building at 19th
and Spring Garden Streets in 1917. The College, officially renamed Philadelphia College
of Osteopathy (PCO) in 1921, erected a three-story, 52-bed hospital building to the
rear and acquired two adjacent townhouses—one for additional classrooms and clinics,
the other to serve as the Nurses' Home for the College’s new Training School for Nurses.
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.
The Depression and War Years
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.
During the 1930s, the curriculum expanded, pre-osteopathic and graduate schools started,
and PCO created the profession's first Department of Osteopathic Research.
The basement clinic at 48th Street was organized into rows of 40 numbered cubicles
which resembled booths. The third- and fourth-year student physicians who sat at each
cubicle while seeing patients became known as “booth doctors” who played an increasingly
important role in providing health care to the Philadelphia 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 '50s. Medicine
was becoming more specialized and complex, increasing the need for clinical training.
A New Home
In 1951, PCO acquired Women's Homeopathic Hospital at 20th Street and Susquehanna
Avenue and turned 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 College purchased
16 acres of land at City Avenue and Monument Road and the Tudor Revival–style Moss
Estate housed on it. The estate, situated at the heart of the new campus, was renovated
and named the Levin Administration Building. The College was renamed Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) in 1967.
A year later, the Frederic H. Barth Pavilion of the Hospitals of PCOM opened, and
Evans Hall—the classroom, library and laboratory building—was completed in 1973. An adjacent
five-story office building, acquired in 1977, was renovated into classrooms, laboratories and medical offices. The building was later named Rowland Hall after PCOM's fourth president, Thomas M. Rowland, Jr., DO (Hon.), LLD (Hon.).
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 healthcare center in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, and in several urban Philadelphia neighborhoods. The centers provide care to medically underserved populations while serving as key
sites for the clinical education of PCOM students—not only DO students, but physician assistant and psychology students
In 2020, PCOM transferred ownership of the clinical practice in Sullivan County to
Family Practice Center, PC, owned and operated by PCOM alumni.
In 2022, the City Avenue location, Family Medicine at PCOM, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to highlight a renovation and expansion project
that more than tripled the size of the facility footprint and transformed the facility
into a one-stop shop to serve the medical needs of the community. New additions include
a spacious and comfortable waiting area, 15 examination rooms (including two outfitted
for pediatrics), a dedicated space for mental health services, a new physician who
specializes in women's reproductive health, a preceptor room where PCOM students can
collaborate with physicians, a lab and a phlebotomy room where patients can get blood
drawn and COVID vaccines, often without an appointment. Beyond the spacious layout,
new flooring, lighting and soothing ambience, a new vybe urgent care center located
only steps away from the primary care practice will refer walk-in patients to PCOM
for follow-up care, to identify a primary care provider and for chronic care management.
The addition of non-DO academic programs to the curriculum starting in the early `90s
began a new era of diversification for PCOM. Program launches and expansions include:
PCOM also launched a number of dual-degree programs in conjunction with our Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program. These combined degrees
provide opportunities in a number of fields, including business administration, public
health, forensic medicine, mental health counseling, organizational development and
leadership, and more.
The College also increased strategic partnerships from “home base” clinical teaching
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 have been reserved to accommodate future construction.
In 2021, the College opened Meta Christy House, named in honor of Meta L. Christy, DO 1921, located adjacent to the PCOM campus. Previously, Overmont House, the newly renovated
facility includes 224 fully furnished apartments on 12 floors. The location allows
students to live on campus and to be part of a safe living community.
Expansion Into Georgia
Responding to a growing need for healthcare providers in the South, PCOM established
a new, state-of-the-art branch campus in Suwanee, Georgia in 2005. Renamed PCOM Georgia in 2019, the Suwanee location offers a range of health-related degree programs, enabling
students to gain an education close to home with the aim of serving the health needs
of their communities and the region. Students can pursue professional doctoral degree
programs in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy and physical therapy. PCOM Georgia also offers master’s degree programs in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies.
A second campus building, the 21,000-square-foot Northlake building, houses offices for administrative personnel, admissions, marketing and communications,
and alumni relations. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment.