In 1925, James B. Duke created Duke University with a vision that the institution “secure officers, trustees, and faculty of such outstanding character, ability, and vision as will insure its attaining and maintaining a place of leadership in the educational world.” Accepting that challenge, Duke University School of Medicine has become one of the world’s outstanding medical schools. World-class research facilities in close proximity to the medical center and main university campus create an environment that is optimal for carrying out the teaching and research missions of the school. School of Medicine is proud of its past and is eager to face the continuing challenges of medical education innovation, cutting edge research, patient-centered care and leadership in the coming years.

Leaders Through the Years        Duke University Health System Timeline

School of Medicine Milestones: A Historical Timeline

  • 1924

    Founding of Duke University

     James B. Duke establishes The Duke Endowment and directs that part of his $40-million gift be used to transform Durham's Trinity College into Duke University.


  • 1925

    School of Medicine Established

     James B. Duke makes an additional bequest to establish the Duke School of Medicine, Duke School of Nursing, and Duke Hospital, with the goal of improving health care in the Carolinas and nationwide.

  • 1927

    Wilburt Davison
    Dean selected

    Dr. Wilburt Cornell Davison elected first Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and Hospital on 21 January.


  • 1930

    Medical School Classes Begin

    Eighteen third year and thirty first year medical students began classes on October 2nd.

  • 1930

    Department of Microbiology

    Established: 1930. Name changed to the Department of Microbiology and Immunology when combined with the Division of Immunology in 1964. Re-established as the Department of Microbiology when the Department of Immunology was formed in 1992. Merged with the Department of Genetics to form the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology in 2002.

  • 1936

    Portrait J. Deryl Hart
    UV Lamps Introduced into Operating Rooms

    Duke surgeon J. Deryl Hart, MD, introduces ultraviolet lamps into operating rooms to kill airborne germs that cause post-operative staph infections, dramatically reducing the number of infections and related deaths.

  • 1937

    Barnes Woodhall, MD
    Nations First Brain Tumor Program founded

    The brain tumor program at Duke is founded by Barnes Woodhall, MD, as one of the first brain tumor research and clinical programs in the United States. In the 1950s Woodhall becomes one of the first physicians to use chemotherapy on brain tumors. 

  • 1937

    Dorothy and Joseph Beard
    Development of Vaccine Against Equine Encephalomyelitis

    Joseph Beard, MD, and his wife and research partner Dorothy developed a killed-virus vaccine for horse encephalitis, AKA "blind staggers," using ultracentrifuges and chick embroyos. The vaccine saved hundreds of thousands of horses and protected humans, which also helping establish the notion that killed virus is effective and safe as a vaccine.

  • 1950

    Jay Arena, MD
    Childproof Safety Caps

    Duke pediatrician, Jay Arena, MD, leads the push for drug companies  to develop the childproof safety cap for medicine bottles. Dr. Arena is credited with beginning the first poison control movement in the United States, and his efforts led to the creation of the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the Duke Poison Control Center. 

  • 1955

    BW arial view of the Duke Health Center in the 1950s
    Creation of the Duke Aging Center

    Psychiatrist Ewald W. Busse establishes the Duke University Center for Aging, the first research center of its kind in the nation. Now the oldest continuously running aging center in the United States, the Duke Center for Aging has pioneered long-term studies of health problems among the elderly.

  • 1960

    Barnes Woodhall
    2nd Dean of the School of Medicine

    Dr. Barnes Woodhall is appointed Dean of the School of Medicine


  • 1964

    William G. Anlyan
    3rd Dean of the School of Medicine

    William G. Anlyan appointed Dean of the School of Medicine.


  • 1965

    PA Program Building
    Duke Establishes First Physician Assistant Program

    Dr. Eugene A. Stead Jr., then-chairman of the Department of Medicine in the Duke University School of Medicine, started the nation's first physician assistant educational program, a two-year curriculum to train people to fill a societal need for more medical practitioners, and expand the prior education and experience of ex-military corpsmen.

  • 1968

    Irwin Fridovich, PhD
    Enzyme Superoxide Dismutase Discovered

    Irwin Fridovich, PhD, and graduate student Joe McCord discover the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which protects all living things against the toxicity of oxygen.

  • 1969

    Thomas Kinney, MD
    DUKE ESTABLISHES FIRST Pathologists’ Assistant Program

    Dr. Thomas Kinney, Chairman of Pathology at Duke University Medical Center, saw a need for professionals similar to physician assistants in anatomic pathology, so he initiated the nation's first pathologists' assistant program in 1969. Pathologists' assistants perform tasks, under a pathologist's supervision, in autopsy and surgical pathology that had previously been performed by pathologists. 

  • 1973

    Duke Cancer Center
    Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center Established

    The Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center becomes one of the nation’s first cancer centers to be established with the passage of the National Cancer Act. It is designated a "comprehensive" cancer center by the National Cancer Institute in 1973.

  • 1978

    The Ophthalmic Technician training program is started. 

    Ophthalmic Technician Program trains Ophthalmic Technicians (OpTechs), who work closely with ophthalmologists, to assist in caring for patients with eye diseases or injuries

  • 1981

    Duke biochemist Jane Richardson
    Jane Richardson’s Ribbon Diagram Published

    Duke biophysicist Jane Richardson’s ribbon diagram, a method of representing the 3D structure of proteins, is first published.

    Science's 'Mother of Ribbon Diagram' Celebrates 50 years at Duke

  • 1982

    Rebecca Buckley
    Cure for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, Also Known as “Bubble Boy Disease"

    Pediatric immunologist Rebecca Buckley, MD, uses bone marrow transplantation to cure severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as “bubble boy disease.”

  • 1985

    First Human Clinical Trials of AZT

    Duke becomes one of two hospitals to conduct the first human clinical trials of AZT, the first drug to substantially improve quality of life for AIDS patients.

  • 1988

    School of Medicine Establishes the Department of Cell Biology

    Michael Sheetz, PhD, named inaugural chair. 

  • 1989

    Ralph Snyderman, MD
    4th Dean of the School of Medicine and 1st Chancellor for Health Affairs

    Ralph Snyderman, MD,  served as dean of Duke University School of Medicine and the first chancellor for health affairs. He oversaw the development of the Duke University Health System, and served as its first president and chief executive officer. 

    1989 - 2001

  • 1990

    Duke Researchers Discover a Gene That Increases the Risk of Alzheimer's

    Duke researchers discover a gene that increases people’s risk of developing the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease, showing for the first time that it can be inherited.

  • 1993

    Duke Researchers Invent a Test to Screen Newborns for 30 Metabolic Diseases At Once

    Duke geneticists invent a three-minute test to screen newborns for over 30 metabolic diseases at once. Though devastating if undetected, the diseases can be controlled once identified. The test is now used throughout the country. 

  • 1993

    First Outpatient Bone Marrow Transplantation Program

    Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center (now Duke Cancer Institute) develops the nation’s first outpatient bone marrow transplantation program.

  • 1993

    Department of Immunology Established

    Thomas F. Tedder, PhD, named inaugural chair. In 2023, the department was renamed the Department of Integrative Immunobiology under the leadership of Raphael Valdivia, PhD. 

  • 1994

    Mary Louise Markert
    Thymus Transplantation Used to Cure Once-fatal Complete DiGeorge Syndrome

    Pediatric immunologist Louise Markert, MD, PhD, uses thymus transplantation to cure once-fatal complete DiGeorge Syndrome. 

  • 1994

    BRCA1 protein
    Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Gene Discovered

    Duke scientists help to discover BRCA1, the gene responsible for many inherited forms of breast and ovarian cancers.

  • 1996

    25th anniversary logo for the DCRI. VISIONARY; 25 years of improving health around the world.
    Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) founded

    Although the inception of the DCRI dates to 1969 with the formation of the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease, the DCRI as it is known today was formally created in 1996, with Robert M. Califf, MD, serving as the first executive director. The DCRI works to develop, share, and implement knowledge that improves health around the world through innovative clinical research. 

    DCRI Celebrates 25 Years

  • 1998

    Duke Researchers Discover Detectable Marker for Alzheimer’s Disease

    Duke researchers are the first to use magnetic resonance spectroscopy to track levels of n-acetylaspartate (N-AA) as a marker for Alzheimer’s disease, proving that such a marker exists and that it can be detected.

  • 1999

    5th Dean of the School of Medicine

    Edward W. Holmes Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.


  • 1999

    Elizabeth DeLong, PhD
    School of Medicine Establishes the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics

    Elizabeth DeLong, PhD, named inaugural chair. 

  • 2001

    R. Sanders Williams
    6th Dean of the School of Medicine

    R. Sanders Williams appointed Dean of the School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Dr. Williams is also the founding dean of the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore that was established during his tenure.

    2001 - 2007

  • 2005

    Discovery of Gene that Determines Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    Researchers at Duke and Vanderbilt universities discover the first major gene known to determine an individual’s risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of visual impairment and legal blindness in the  elderly.

  • 2006

    The FDA Approves Myozyme, a Lifesaving Treatment for Children With Pompe Disease

    The FDA approves Myozyme, the first lifesaving treatment for children with Pompe disease. The treatment was discovered and developed at Duke. 

  • 2007

    CTTI logo; Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative
    Duke co-founds the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) with the FDA

    Duke University and the FDA co-founded the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), a public-private partnership designed to create new solutions for better, more efficient clinical trials; DCRI serves as the host of CTTI. 

  • 2007

    Nancy C. Andrews
    7th Dean of the School of Medicine

    Nancy C. Andrews, MD, PhD, named dean. Andrews, is the first woman to be appointed dean of the School and becomes the only woman to lead one of the nation's top 10 medical schools.


  • 2009

    Russell Hall, MD
    Department of Dermatology Established

    The Department of Dermatology is established. Russel Hall, MD named chair.

  • 2010

    Pediatric Trials Network, making drugs safer & more effective for use in younger patients
    DCRI receives a $95 million NIH grant for the Pediatric Trials Network (PTN)

    This grant was renewed in 2018; to date, the PTN has contributed to label changes for 15 drugs

  • 2011

    Mutations Identified that Make Cells Immortal

    A team of scientists from Duke and Johns Hopkins universities identify mutations in a gene that make cells immortal and appear to play a pivotal role in three of the most common types of brain tumors, as well as cancers of the liver, tongue and urinary tract.

  • 2012

    Barton Haynes, MD
    Duke Leads the Worlds Largest HIV Vaccine Trial

    Bart Haynes, MD, leads the world’s largest HIV vaccine trial, which provides important clues about immune system responses that could play a role in protecting people from HIV infection. 

  • 2012

    Robert Lefkowitz Shares Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    Robert J. Lefkowitz MD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Brian K. Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine, who was a post-doctoral fellow in Lefkowitz's lab in the 1980s. They were recognized for their work on a class of cell surface receptors that have become the target of prescription drugs, including antihistamines, ulcer drugs and beta blockers to relieve hypertension, angina and coronary disease.

    Robert J. Lefkowitz's Nobel Page

  • 2013

    Trent Semans Center for Health Education
    New Medical Education Building

    The Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education opens, the first new medical education building since 1930.

  • 2013

    Surgeons performing a surgery
    First In-Human Graft of Bioengineered Blood Vessel

    Jeffery Lawson, MD, PhD, and Laura Niklason, MD, PhD, develop a bioengineered blood vessel, which Lawson grafts into an artery in a patient’s arm, the first in-human procedure of its kind in the U.S.

  • 2014

    25th Anniversary of the Heart Transplant Program

    Duke celebrates the 25th anniversary of the creation of the heart transplant program. By 2019, more than  1,500 patients have received new hearts through the program.

  • 2014

    Dr. Paul Hahn performs a high definition scan on the left eye of patient
    Paul Hahn, MD Performed the First Retinal prosthesis system in North Carolina.

    The patient was among the first U.S. recipients of the Argus 2 surgically implanted "bionic eye." 

  • 2015

    Duke Neurosurgery Logo
    Division of Neurosurgery Elevated to Department Status; Sampson Named Chair

    The Division of Neurosurgery, within the Department of Surgery, was elevated to department status, effective July 1, 2015. John Sampson, MD, PhD, chief of the division was appointed chair. 

  • 2015

    portrait of man in lab
    Paul Modrich Receives Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    Paul Modrich, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator was one of 3 recipients of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for mechanistic studies of DNA repair. According to the Nobel Foundation, their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments.

    Paul Modrich's Nobel Page

  • 2016

    two blue gloved hands holding a bandaged hand
    Duke Team Performs First Hand Transplant in NC

    A Duke team, led by Linda Cendales, MD, performs the first hand transplant in NC, attaching the limb to a 54-year-old patient from Laredo, Texas, whose hand was severed in a childhood accident. 

  • 2016

    ECHO logo; environmental influence on child health outcomes. A program supported by the NIH
    Duke Clinical Research Institute named coordinating center of ECHO

    The project is part of a $157 million federal initiative aimed at studying how environmental factors affect childhood health (ECHO).

  • 2017

    Mary E. Klotman, MD
    8th Dean of the School of Medicine

    Mary Klotman, M.D. -- a nationally renowned physician-scientist and academic leader who served as chair of Duke’s Department of Medicine for almost seven years -- was named Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University

    2017 - Present

  • 2017

    Duke Population Health Sciences Logo
    School of Medicine Creates Department of Population Health Sciences

    The Center for Population Health Sciences was elevated to department status, effective July 1, 2017. Lesley Curtis, PhD, director of the center, assumed the role of interim chair.

  • 2018

    Surgeon performing a glioblastoma biopsy
    Researchers Develop Poliovirus Therapy for Glioblastoma

    A genetically modified poliovirus therapy developed at Duke Cancer Institute shows significantly improved long-term survival for patients with recurrent glioblastoma, with a three-year survival rate of 21% in a phase 1 clinical trial. 



  • 2018

    Breakthrough in Peanut Allergies

    In a study using mice bred to have peanut allergies, Duke researchers were able to reprogram the animals' immune systems using a nanoparticle delivery of molecules to the lymph nodes that switched off the life-threatening reactions to peanut exposures.

  • 2018

    Diego Bohórquez, PhD
    Researchers Discover Cells That Allow the Gut to Communicate with the Brain

    Duke researchers, led by Diego Bohórquez, PhD, discover a new set of pathways that allow gut cells to rapidly communicate with the brain.

  • 2019

    physicians performing kidney transplant
    Duke Performs First HOPE Act HIV+ Live Kidney Transplant in N.C. and Region

    A donor’s altruism leads to the nation’s second HIV-positive live kidney transplant.

  • 2019

    Duke Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences logo
    Division of Head & Neck Surgery Elevated to Department Status; Francis, Named Interim Chair

    The Division of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences within the Department of Surgery was elevated to department status, effective July 1, 2019. Dr. Howard Francis, chief of the division, assumed the role of interim chair. 

  • 2020

    Duke Clinical Research Institute receives grants totaling more than $130 million for COVID-19 research

    DCRI received a $50 million PCORI grant for the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response and Outcomes (HERO) research program and received a $80 million NIH grant for RADx-UP, both research programs that will study the prevention and testing of COVID-19, respectively DCRI is Duke University’s top awardee for federal COVID-19 research funding.

  • 2021

    COVID-19 spike protein
    Duke Researchers Receive Grant to Roll Out Next-Generation Coronavirus Vaccine

    The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded $17.5 million over three years to the Duke Human Vaccine Institute to develop a vaccine that protects against multiple types of coronaviruses and viral variants.


  • 2022

    Mary E. Klotman, MD
    Mary Klotman Reappointed Dean

    Mary Klotman, MD, was reappointed for a second five-year term as dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, vice chancellor for health affairs at Duke University, and chief academic officer for Duke University Health System. 

  • 2022

    Emergency room entrance Duke Hospital
    Division of Emergency Medicine Elevated to Department Status; Gerardo Named Interim Chair

    The Division of Emergency Medicine within the Department of Surgery in the Duke University School of Medicine was elevated to department status, effective July 1, 2022. Charles (Chuck) J. Gerardo, MD, chief of the division, assumed the role of interim chair.

  • 2022

    baby in a bassinette wearing a hat with various medical sensors attached
    Duke Health Performs World’s First Partial Heart Transplant

    A team at Duke Health has performed what is believed to be the world’s first partial heart transplant, with the living arteries and valves from a freshly donated heart fused onto a patient’s existing heart.

  • 2023

    Duke Urology Logo
    Division of Urology Elevated to Department Status; Faerber Named Interim Chair

    The Division of Urology within the Department of Surgery was elevated to department status, effective July 1, 2023. Gary Faerber, MD, chief of the division, assumed the role of interim chair.

  • 2023

    Mary E. Klotman, MD
    Mary Klotman Named Duke’s First Executive Vice President for Health Affairs

    Klotman’s appointment, effective July 1, 2023, follows a restructuring of the leadership model for Duke Health’s academic and clinical missions.

  • 2024

    baby in a bassinette wearing a hat with various medical sensors attached
    World’s First Partial Heart Transplant Proves Successful in First Year

    The world’s first partial heart transplant has achieved what researchers have spent more than a year hoping for -- functioning valves and arteries that grow along with the young patient.