Founding of the University

The origins of the Health System can be traced back to the University of Virginia’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. In some of his earliest plans for the University, Jefferson recommended the creation of a School of Anatomy and Medicine.

He envisioned a rigorous academic model, where students could attain a medical education in nine months, a term that was twice as long as most schools at the time. Students would read, attend lectures, and watch demonstrations. But there would be few opportunities for them to work firsthand with patients, because there was no teaching hospital in Charlottesville. Jefferson expected that students would gain this experience elsewhere after completing their studies at UVA.

Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Jefferson, American, 1755 – 1828, c. 1821, oil on wood, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Coolidge IV in memory of his great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, his grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge II, and his father, Thomas Jefferson Coolidge III

When the University opened its doors to students in 1825, Dr. Robley Dunglison taught all of the classes offered by the School of Anatomy and Medicine. Over the next eight years, he persuaded the UVA Board of Visitors to hire additional faculty for his department. He also established a small dispensary in the Anatomical Theatre, where students could obtain limited clinical experience. When Dunglison left the University in 1833, UVA had a viable medical