San Francisco’s First Medical Institutions: Hospitals and PesthousesWell before individual practitioners succeeded in organizing themselves into professional societies, the needs of the public’s health prompted official government action on behalf of the San Francisco citizens. The task of removing the seriously ill or indigent from the streets and the threat of major epidemics prompted the city to provide for hospital care, first in tents and board sheds under supervision of contracting physicians. In 1850 a state bill appropriated $50,000 to build a State Marine Hospital in San Francisco.
In 1854, six Sisters of Mercy arrived from Ireland. They won praise for cleaning up the hospital environment after a series of scandals over poor care and for nursing patients through cholera and smallpox. The Sisters of Mercy stayed in San Francisco and continued to provide hospital care in a setting that eventually became St. Mary’s Hospital. By 1857 the City and County Hospital was located in the former North Beach School at the southwest corner of Francisco and Stockton Streets. In order to help relieve crowding, in 1867 the city of San Francisco built a large almshouse near Laguna Honda on eighty acres of city-owned land on the western side of Twin Peaks. The following year the city created a 24-bed smallpox isolation hospital on the Laguna Honda grounds.
San Francisco’s First Medical SchoolsIn 1858 California surgeon Elias Samuel Cooper organized the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific with a board of trustees consisting of ten clergymen and three physicians. The first session opened in May 1859, with a class of ten attending lectures in materia medica, chemistry, physiology, anatomy and medical jurisprudence. Dr. Cooper's death in 1862 brought confusion to the new school, and in 1864 the Pacific Medical faculty "suspended" activities and joined Dr. Hugh Toland in his efforts to found a viable medical school in San Francisco.
The school catalogue reflected Toland's insistence on the importance of clinical instruction. Lectures were given at San Francisco City and County Hospital
Toland's first class consisted of eight students, mostly drawn from the Cooper Medical College. The faculty of this lapsed medical college were asked to serve on the Toland roster, and Drs. Levi Cooper Lane, Henry Gibbons, Sr., and John F. Morse joined the faculty with some ambivalence. Significantly, R. Beverly Cole, the Dean and professor of obstetrics and diseases of women and children at Cooper, was not asked by Toland to join his new faculty.
R. Beverly Cole returned from a tour of Europe in 1867 and was appointed Surgeon General of the State of California in recognition of his valuable public health efforts. As a member of the Outside Lands Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Cole became a well-known figure in the city's political arena. He supported the establishment of Golden Gate Park on the western edge of the city. Cole simultaneously persuaded the local health board to condemn the old City and County Hospital building, and a new institution was planned at Potrero Nuevo, a site nearly four miles southeast of Toland's College. The impression among San Francisco's medical fraternity was that Cole had finally achieved his revenge for Toland's past rebuffs by weakening the College's vital link to the world of clinical medicine. Eventually, however, Dr. Cole would join the Toland medical faculty and become instrumental in the affiliation negotiations with the University of California.
University AffiliationBy 1870, Toland Medical College had a class of thirty students and had already granted diplomas to forty-five graduates. In that year, Toland sought to affiliate his medical school to the University of California, which itself was not yet two years old. In March 1873, the trustees deeded the Toland Medical College to the University of California Regents and the faculty minutes for the first time bore the heading, "The Medical Department of the University of California."
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