History

History

Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Hershey Medical Center have a rich history of academic achievement. Learn how we started and have grown to be one of the nation's premier academic health centers.

Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Hershey Medical Center have a rich history of academic achievement.

Learn how we started and have grown to be one of the nation's premier academic health centers.

It all began with the fabled "$50 Million Phone Call," seen recreated here by Samuel Hinkle, president of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation, and Eric Walker, president of Penn State University.

The “$50 Million Phone Call”

In 1963, the M.S. Hershey Foundation offered $50 million to The Pennsylvania State University to establish a medical school in Hershey. With this grant and $21.3 million from the U.S. Public Health Service, the university built a medical school, research center, and teaching hospital — what is now the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The university broke ground in 1966, and Penn State College of Medicine opened its doors to students in 1967. The Medical Center accepted its first patients in 1970.

Leading the Way in Humanities and Family Medicine

The College of Medicine was the first in the nation to have a dedicated Department of Humanities and a Department of Family and Community Medicine. Both were original departments, created when the college opened.

The original buildings on the Medical Center campus included the Medical Science Building and University Hospital, Animal Research Farm, Laundry and Steam Plant, and University Manor Apartments. Since 1970, the campus has grown from 318 acres to 550 acres.

Many additions have been made to the academic and patient care facilities, reflecting the steady increase in patient demand for services and the need to expand research and teaching programs.

Founding dean and CEO George Harrell, MD, pictured in 1966 with an architectural model, oversees initial construction of the Medical Center and College of Medicine.
Founding dean and CEO George Harrell, M.D., pictured here in 1966, oversees initial construction of the Medical Center and College of Medicine.

Training Tomorrow’s Leaders in Medicine

Since the first graduation in 1969, College of Medicine students have become productive physicians and scientists.

Today, we offer degree programs in:

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Bioengineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Homeland Security
  • Immunology and Infectious Diseases
  • Integrative Biosciences
  • Laboratory Animal Medicine
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Toxicology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Public Health Sciences

Nursing students from the Penn State College of Nursing rotate through the Medical Center for clinical courses, and students from other Penn State health-related programs and other institutions come to Hershey for their clinical experience. The extended B.S. degree program for nurses is offered in conjunction with the College of Nursing.

Continuing education programs serve Medical Center and other healthcare professionals throughout Pennsylvania, with enrollment exceeding 39,000 each year.

Basic and clinical research projects to treat and cure major diseases are conducted at the College and Medical Center. Annually, this research is supported by more than $100 million in awards from federal, state, and private agencies; businesses; and individuals.

The Medical Center is recognized as one of the nation's premier academic health centers, recruiting faculty members who are internationally known for their accomplishments in research, education, and patient care. College of Medicine and Medical Center faculty and physicians continue to integrate the latest biomedical knowledge and technology with compassionate care of patients, while educating the next generation of scientists and physicians.