The University of Minnesota opened its doors to health sciences training in 1888, when it established the Department of Medicine. A precursor to the modern academic health center, it had clinical facilities in St. Paul and was composed of the College of Medicine and Surgery, the College of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery, and the College of Dentistry.
A few years later, in 1892, dentistry became a stand-alone college, and the Department of Medicine gave way to what would become the College of Medical Sciences.
In response to the growing need for health professionals in the region and the demands of postwar medical education—the University reorganized a confederation of deans and directors known as the Health Sciences Council into the Health Sciences Center in 1970. The new center included the schools and colleges of medicine, public health, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy along with the University hospitals. The College of Veterinary Medicine joined the fold in 1985.
In the early 1990s Health Sciences took on another new name: the Academic Health Center (AHC).
More students, more grant-funded research, and an expanded health sciences physical complex demonstrate the AHC’s success over the last 40 years. The physical expansion started in late 1970 with a $22 million federal grant to begin work on Health Sciences Unit A (the Malcolm Moos Heath Sciences Tower), an imposing structure designed to create a shared space for dentistry and the Medical School and to symbolize the new interdisciplinary approach to training and research.
Today, the AHC remains composed of its six schools and colleges, but more than ever, its faculty is focused on collaboration across disciplines that will advance the center’s three-part mission: to educate the next generation of health professionals and veterinarians; to discover and deliver new preventions, treatments, and cures; and to enhance Minnesota’s bioscience industries and grow the state’s economy.
By Erik Moore, assistant University archivist and lead archivist for the health sciences