Medicine at UVA — A Brief History

Thomas Jefferson

Without health, there is no happiness. An attention to health, then, should take the place of every other object. – T. Jefferson

The University of Virginia Health System embodies the leadership and inventiveness of its founder, Thomas Jefferson. Two centuries ago, Jefferson established the University of Virginia and the nation’s 10th medical school, which has since grown into a nationally renowned academic medical center committed to providing outstanding patient care, educating tomorrow’s health care leaders and discovering better ways to treat disease.

When Mr. Jefferson completed his designs for the University of Virginia, he included a medical building called the Anatomical Hall. Completed in 1826, the Hall contained a theater for anatomical and medical demonstrations for students. Dr. Robley Dunglison, recruited from London by Jefferson, was the first medical faculty member and the first full-time professor of medicine in the United States. Charlottesville was at that time too small and isolated to support a hospital, so medical courses proceeded on theory and anatomical study rather than practical experiences. Over the next several decades, a dispensary and then infirmary were opened to provide care for students and for local community residents who also served as models for the medical classes.

In 1893, the medical faculty recommended construction of a modern hospital on University grounds. The first University of Virginia Hospital — a 150-bed facility with a central building flanked by pavilions — opened on April 13, 1901, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.


Today, the UVA Hospital has grown into the Health System, representing a network of facilities that support and integrate patient care, health education, research and public service:

  • The University of Virginia Medical Center is an integrated network of primary and specialty care services ranging from wellness programs and routine checkups to the most technologically advanced care. The hub of the Medical Center is a full-service, tertiary-care hospital with over 500 beds and a Level 1 trauma center. Primary and specialty care is also provided at many clinic locations throughout central Virginia.
  • UVA’s School of Medicine is ranked 10th in the nation among state-assisted medical schools, and consistently attracts the nation’s brightest students and most distinguished faculty members. Awarded millions of dollars in funding each year, the School of Medicine’s 25-plus research centers are making discoveries that result in new and better treatments and  therapies, especially in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and vaccine development.
  • UVA’s School of Nursing has earned a national reputation for excellence in education, research and practice. Ranked among the nation’s top 25 public nursing schools, the UVA School of Nursing offers undergraduate, master’s level and doctoral programs.
  • The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library offers expert information services in every area of medicine. This state-of-the-art library has a staff of skilled professionals available to help health care specialists and patients find the latest health news and on-line information and discover UVA’s rich history in the development of modern medicine. The HS Library is a unique, comprehensive online library providing access to dozens of full-text online journals and a research liaison service.
  • The University Physicians’ Group (UPG) is the physician group practice that manages billing for UVA physicians.
  • Recognized for excellence by U.S. News & World Report, Best Doctors in America and Good Housekeeping, physicians at the UVA Health System serve patients from the Charlottesville area, the Southeast and from around the world. Many UVA physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are recognized nationally and internationally as leaders in their fields.