Chester R. Burns

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL BRANCH AT GALVESTON. In March 1881 the Seventeenth Texas Legislature authorized the establishment of the University of Texas and decided that Texans would determine its location by popular referendum. Moreover, Texans could locate the medical school of the new university in a city that was not the same as the one selected for the main campus. Between 1865 and 1881 Galveston doctors had organized medical societies, taught medical students in two colleges, examined candidates for licensure in Galveston County, participated actively on a board of health, treated indigent patients at local hospitals, and edited the state's only three medical journals. Proud of this cultural legacy, Galvestonians lobbied fiercely for their city as the site for the new medical school. In September of 1881, 70 percent of the voters chose Galveston over Houston. After ten years of political and economic struggles, the Medical Department of the University of Texas opened for instruction in October 1891 with thirteen faculty members and twenty-three students. The UT regents added a School of Pharmacy in 1893 and assumed responsibility for the John Sealy Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1896. By 1900 the institution had graduated 259 men and six women as physicians, seventy-six men and six women as pharmacists, and fifty-four women as nurses. In 1919 it was renamed the University of Texas Medical Branch. In a classic study of all American medical schools published in 1910, Abraham Flexner concluded that UTMB was the only school in Texas "fit to continue in the work of training physicians." Displaying their esteem for both Carter and UTMB, the Association of American Colleges elected the UTMB dean, William S. Carter, as its president in 1917.

Throughout its existence UTMB's faculty and staff have remained dedicated to the service ideals associated with patient care, teaching, and research. Expansion of the campus has accompanied expansion of programs for care of the sick, instruction of students, and technologically sophisticated scientific research. State, federal, and private dollars have enabled the addition of major clinical facilities, including Negro Hospital (1902, 1937), Children's Hospital (1912, 1937, 1978), Woman's Hospital (1915), a psychiatric hospital (1931, 1982), a new John Sealy Hospital (1954) and John Sealy Hospital Towers (1978), ambulatory care facilities (1930, 1966, 1983), Shriners Burns Institute (1966, 1992), Jennie Sealy Hospital (1968), the Texas Department of Corrections Hospital (1983), and a vastly expanded Emergency Trauma Center (1992). As the major statewide multicategorical referral medical center, UTMB has treated a steadily increasing number of inpatients and outpatients; about 18,000 came annually during the late 1930s, and more than 350,000 by the late 1980s.

A variety of educational programs evolved at UTMB. Although the School of Pharmacy was moved to Austin in 1927, the training of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals remained as central missions. By the seventy-fifth anniversary year (1965–66) 3,000 of UTMB's 5,000 physician graduates still practiced in Texas. By 1991 UTMB had conferred more than 9,000 medical degrees, 4,000 nursing diplomas or degrees, 800 master's or doctor's degrees in the biomedical sciences, and 3,000 diplomas or degrees in such allied fields as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medical technology. The UT regents administratively centralized the latter programs into a School of Allied Health Sciences in 1968. They organized the biomedical science graduate programs into a Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 1979 and established two unique institutes—the Marine Biomedical Institute (1969) and the Institute for the Medical Humanities (1973). To provide support for teaching and research programs, several buildings have been added, including the Keiller Building (1925, 1932), the Gail Borden Building (1953), the Surgical Research Laboratories (1964), the Libbie Moody Thompson Basic Sciences Building (1971), the Moody Medical Library (1972), and the Medical Research Building (1991).

During UTMB's first fifty years several faculty members engaged in experimental and clinical research projects. These professors included Oscar Plant in physiology, William Rose and Meyer Bodansky in biochemistry, Wilfred Dawson in pharmacology, Donald Duncan in anatomy, George R. Herrmann in internal medicine, and Robert Moore and James E. Thompson in surgery. Research activities increased dramatically after World War II, mostly because of increased federal funding. Between 1946 and 1966 UTMB faculty received more than $8 million from research grants and contracts with United States Public Health Service agencies. These agencies provided more than $96 million between 1982 and 1988. The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund, and the Moody Foundation, among others, have also contributed private dollars in support of numerous research projects. Approximately 700 full-time faculty members and 1,900 students participated in the instructional and research programs of UTMB's four schools and two institutes during the institution's centennial year (1990–91). UTMB faculty received more than $36 million in research grants. About 27,000 inpatients and 350,000 outpatients received diagnostic and therapeutic services in 1991. UTMB's clinical professionals provided more than $100 million in unreimbursed patient care. Some 8,500 employees performed their jobs in seventy-one buildings located on sixty-four acres in Galveston. With an annual budget of $438 million, UTMB was the fourth largest public employer in the Houston-Galveston area. In 1995 the medical school began implementing an experimental curricular track in which students took all their courses in small classes rather than large lecture halls and, during their first two years, spent half a day each week off-campus in a primary-care clinic or private practice. The School of Allied Health Sciences has cooperative programs with the University of Texas–Pan American to train physician assistants and with Galveston College to offer an associate degree in radiologic health sciences. In addition, as the major health-care provider for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, UTMB became the first health sciences university in the country to offer degree programs and residencies in correctional health care. By 2000 UTMB employed some 13,654 people on its eighty-four-acre campus, and was the third largest employer in Houston-Galveston. During the previous year UTMB hospitals recorded more than 33,000 inpatient admissions, 73,500 emergency visits, and 753,000 visits to ambulatory clinics. The institution's chief administrative officers have included John Fannin Young Paine (1891–97), Allen John Smith (1897–98, 1901–03), William Keiller (1922–26), George Emmett Bethel (1928–35), and Truman G. Blocker, Jr. (1955–56, 1964–74)


A Century of Service: The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 1891–1991 (Galveston, 1991). The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: A Seventy-five Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: Past, Present, Future (Galveston: University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 1966). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Chester R. Burns, "UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL BRANCH AT GALVESTON," accessed January 27, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 1, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...