Augusta, founded as a trading post before the Revolutionary War, was already a cultural center for the area by 1822 when a group of physicians received a charter for the Augusta Medical Society from the State of Georgia, enabling them to receive and hold property, with the purpose of founding a medical school for the enhancement of professionalism and the suppression of charlatanism.
In 1828, the Georgia General Assembly granted a formal charter for the Medical Academy of Georgia and the school began training physicians in two borrowed rooms of the City Hospital. Dr. Milton Antony and his pupil, Dr. Joseph Adams Eve, who had already been training students at the hospital, were joined by two more physicians for a faculty of four.
The Academy was planned to give a one-year lecture series and confer a Bachelor of Medicine degree, to be followed by a second year at another school for the MD degree. In 1829, the Academy was extended to a two year program, conferring the MD degree, and the faculty was expanded to six chairs. The name was changed in 1829 to the Medical Institute of Georgia and in 1833 to the Medical College of Georgia.
Land and financial support for a building for the school was given by the city of Augusta and by the state. In 1835, the school moved into its first dedicated and free-standing Academic building located on Telfair Street, close in proximity to the City Hospital then located on Greene Street. Close ties with the city of Augusta in furnishing clinical facilities were continued for over one hundred years. In 1913 the school moved to larger quarters in the renovated Tuttle-Newton Orphanage on the edge of town, and Augusta built a new city hospital nearby in 1915. Although city-owned, this was known as University Hospital, in recognition of its place as the teaching hospital of the school, which was by then the Medical Department of the University of Georgia. Financial support of the school in the early days was chiefly from lecture fees paid by the students. In 1873 an affiliation was made with the University of Georgia and the school became the Medical Department of the University. In 1911 the University took control of the property under a single board of trustees and a closer coordination of courses and entrance requirements was effected.
Both the financial and social pressures of the state were reflected in the fluctuations of fortune of the school between 1913 and 1950. Firm financial support from the state came only after years of persuasion by the citizens, alumni, and faculty. Accreditation ratings from the Council on Medical Education reflected the national drive for educational reform. There were recommendations for the relocation of the school, both to Athens, in physical proximity to the University of Georgia, and to Atlanta, a more central and populous area of the state. As a result of the nationwide depression in the early 1930s, a move was made to close the school. This was avoided by a concerted drive from the city of Augusta and from alumni throughout the state.
Despite the crises, the curriculum of the school continued to expand in a similar, though sometimes slower, timetable typical of medical education in the rest of the nation. It weathered the storm which the Flexner report of 1910 precipitated in medical schools of the country and survived, in spite of Flexner’s recommendation to close. As the nation entered into wars, faculty and students were affected, but the school closed only during 1861 to 1865 when students and faculty left in mass to serve in the Confederate Army. By 1928, when the school celebrated its one hundredth anniversary, the curriculum had been expanded to a four year course, with emphasis in the first two years on the basic sciences and the last two years on the clinical sciences, typical of the development of medical education throughout the country.
The 1950s brought rapid changes to the institution. In 1950 the School of Medicine (the name changed from the Department of Medicine in 1933) focused only on the medical program, the core upon which the school was founded. In that year the Board of Regents of the University System made the school an independent unit in the system, and for the sixth time in its history, the school’s name was changed. It became the Medical College of Georgia. In 1956 a state constructed and managed teaching hospital replaced clinical arrangements with the city of Augusta and the growth of the school as a health sciences university began.
With the opening of the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Hospital in 1956, the nursing program was moved from the University of Georgia in Athens and the School of Nursing was established. Master’s degrees in Medical Art and in the basic sciences were first awarded in 1950 under the School of Medicine. The School of Graduate Studies was established by the Board of Regents in 1962 and the first PhD degree awarded in 1963. The School of Allied Health Sciences was established in 1968, bringing together existing training programs and expanding new studies in the health care supportive professions. The School of Dentistry was established in 1969 and the first degrees in dentistry were awarded in September 1973.