Emory University School of Medicine opened its doors on June 28, 1915. From 1915 to 1917, the School of Medicine was located in a building formerly used by the Atlanta College of Medicine, which was located across the street from the relatively new Grady Memorial Hospital. In 1917, the basic science departments moved to the Emory University campus located in Druid Hills. There was no hospital on the Druid Hills campus until 1922, when Wesley Memorial Hospital was completed and its name was changed to Emory University Hospital in 1932, therefore the clinical departments and the Dean's office remained at the Grady campus. When the new hospital was completed on the Druid Hills campus, Emory effectively had a "split campus." The Emory faculty members quickly adjusted to navigating the split campuses. In the years ahead, Emory University School of Medicine would add four additional hospitals, a large clinic and numerous satellite clinics under its umbrella.
Learn more about the history of the Department of Medicine in these short history videos:
- J. Willis Hurst, MD
- Nanette Wenger: History of Cardiology at Emory University and Grady Health System
- Kenneth Walker: History of Education in the Department of Medicine
- History of Research in the Department of Medicine
Former Department Chairs
- W.S. Kendrick, MD (1915 to 1918)
- Cyrus Strickler, MD (1918 - 1926)
- J. Edgar Paullin, MD (1926 - 1931)
- Russell Oppenheimer, MD (1931 - 1941)
Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, was born in Decatur, Georgia on October 6, 1908 and graduated from Emory University School of Medicine in 1932. He arranged the department's teaching program at Grady Memorial Hospital and centered clinical teaching on the patient. In his book "E.A. Stead Jr." he writes, "We would teach from the patients and attach knowledge already acquired to the particular patient the student was caring for. The student would re-investigate those phases of the basic sciences, which applied to the same patient. The patient would be the stimulus for learning, because this stimulus would last as long as the student practiced medicine. The student learned to work for the fun of learning and to give his patients good care." It should also be noted that the first diagnostic use of the cardiac catheter took place in Stead's cardiac catheterization laboratory at Grady. Stead left Emory to become Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Duke University on January 1st, 1947. During his tenure at Emory, he recruited a group of brilliant teachers and investigators. One of them, Paul Beeson, MD, became his successor as chairman of the department.
John Willis Hurst, MD was born in Cooper, Kentucky on October 21, 1920 and obtained his medical degree from the University of Georgia School of Medicine in 1944. His postgraduate training culminated with a cardiac fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital under Paul Dudley White, MD. In 1949, Dr. Hurst returned to Atlanta, where he entered private practice as one of the few cardiologists in the city. Dr. Hurst began teaching at Emory in 1950, believing that his interests in teaching, writing, and research could best be pursued in the setting of academic medicine. In 1957, he was named professor and chair of the Emory University Department of Medicine. During his 30-year tenure as department chair, Dr. Hurst recruited dozens of new faculty members to the School of Medicine, increasing the faculty from 14 to more than 140 and developing a strong medical education program. Dr. Hurst was a prolific writer, having authored or edited more than 450 scientific articles and 74 books. The most famous of his scholarly works is The Heart, the most widely used cardiology textbook in the world. First published in 1966, The Heart has been translated into five languages.
Dr. Hurst's legacy is extensive, but perhaps Bruce Logue, MD summed it up best when he stated that, "Willis is the greatest teacher of cardiology in the world in the last 30 years. I don't know anyone who has equated his teaching ability. He has total recall. He is totally invested in medicine, patients, and patient care." Until his death in 2011, Dr. Hurst continued to be an active teacher, conducting cardiology morning reports at Emory University Hospital, teaching electrocardiography to the house staff, and giving clinical conferences at Emory University Hospital Midtown and Grady Memorial Hospital. In 2002, R. Wayne Alexander, MD named the Department of Medicine's internal medicine residency program in his honor.
Watch short video about Dr. Hurst:
Dr. Alexander received his doctorate in physiology from Emory University and his medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine. He completed both his residency and cardiology fellowship training at Duke University.
During his medical training, he served as a staff associate at the National Heart and Lung Institute from 1971 to 1973. Prior to joining Emory as Bruce Logue Professor and Chief of Cardiology, he served as Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Alexander served as Chair of the Department of Medicine at Emory from 1999-2013.
Dr. Alexander served as Vice President of Research and was on the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association. He was also a senior editor of the cardiology textbook, “Hurst’s The Heart,” and has been on the editorial boards of numerous publications.
His major research interests are in the biology of blood vessels and in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. His lab is interested in the molecular mechanisms which control the cells in the blood vessel wall, in particular, the chemical pathways that are controlled by the generation of reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species, including oxygen free radicals, are key mediators of many pathologic processes including diseases as diverse atherosclerosis and dementia. Lab studies have led not only to new understanding of the pathogenesis of human diseases but have led to the development of new drugs that are undergoing evaluation in clinical trials. Many of the 30-plus trainees from Dr. Alexander’s labs are now leaders of academic medicine in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
David S. Stephens, MD is the interim Dean of the Emory University School of Medicine and plans to return to his position as Chair of the Department of Medicine in September 2017. He is also the Vice President for Research in the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC), a position in which he oversees the WHSC research enterprise and leads planning activities that enhance research programs and collaborations throughout the WHSC and Emory University as well as the is the Chief of Medicine, Emory Healthcare and the Stephen W. Schwarzmann Distinguished Professor of Medicine.
Dr. Stephens joined the Department of Medicine faculty at Emory University School of Medicine in 1982 and was named the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in 1992. He has led the development of successful programs in infectious diseases and microbial pathogenesis and has been a major contributor to the creation and development of the Emory Vaccine Center and the Emory Center for AIDS Research. He is the principal investigator for the NIH Atlanta’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), a multi-institutional research and clinical trials partnership funded for five years, totaling $31 million.
In addition to his faculty appointment in the Department of Medicine, Dr. Stephens is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Professor of Epidemiology in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. He is chair of the Research Advisory Council in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) and a member of the Agenda Committee on the WHSC Leadership Team.
In 2008, Dr. Stephens was named Vice President for Research in the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC). In this role, he will focus on growth of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research across the WHSC and at Emory; development of bold, innovative research initiatives; enhancement of strategic themes within the WHSC, with the other units of the University, and among local, regional, national, and international partners; international research collaborations and opportunities; intellectual property and technology transfer; infrastructure and systems support; innovative research training and career development.
After receiving his MD degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Dr. Stephens conducted research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He completed his clinical training in internal medicine and Infectious Diseases and a research fellowship in microbial pathogenesis at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Dr. Stephens is a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and has served on NIH, Veterans Affairs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review panels. He was chair of the FDA National Vaccine Advisory Committee and a liaison member of the Health and Human Services National Vaccine Advisory Committee and a Senior Scientific Consultant to the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch at the CDC.
Dr. Stephens’ laboratory is an international leader focused on the basis for pathogenesis of the major agents of bacterial meningitis: Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzea as well as on innate immunity, bacterial vaccines and vaccine strategies. He has contributed to more than 225 publications in infectious diseases, molecular pathogenesis, epidemiology and immunology.
In 1988, Dr. Stephens co-founded the Atlanta Active Surveillance Project (now the Georgia Emerging Infections Programs), a population-based surveillance and clinical research program. In 2001 he led CDC’s clinical emergency response team in defining clinical issues in prophylaxis, diagnosis, and treatment of B. anthracis infections.
Dr. Stephens has served as the site principal investigator for the NIH-sponsored Southeastern Regional Center for Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, the CDC-supported Southeast Center for Emerging Biologic Threats, and the NIH-funded Exploratory Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Vaccinology. He founded and directed the Emory University NIH K30 Clinical Research Curriculum Award and served as the Interim Chair and Executive vice Chair of the Department of Medicine.
For close to 30 years, Dr. Stephens has served as an attending physician at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Grady Memorial Hospital, and Emory University Hospital. As Director of Infectious Diseases at Emory, he is responsible for overseeing the clinical programs at Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Emory Wesley Woods Hospital, the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and Grady Memorial Hospital.
The Division of Infectious Diseases has graduated more than 100 fellows. Dr. Stephens’ laboratory has trained more than 50 infectious diseases fellows, postdoctoral fellows, medical students and undergraduates in bacterial pathogenesis. He has served as the thesis advisor for five PhD or MS degree candidates and has served on 17 PhD graduate committees in microbiology and molecular genetics.