Willamette University Medical Department
By the mid-1860s, several small communities dotted the Pacific Northwest. Drawn by the promise of land and opportunity in Oregon’s fertile valleys, the region’s new residents faced many daunting challenges. Amongst the greatest obstacles, however, was their limited access to trained healthcare. In 1867, Willamette University established a medical department at their Salem campus. Previous to the department’s establishment, the only way for people to get a formal medical education was to travel to medical schools far from home. Many instead worked with preceptors and then began practices based on the knowledge gained during their apprenticeships.
Move to Portland
In 1878, the Willamette Medical Department relocated to Portland to take advantage of the greater access to clinical resources and the influx of academically trained physicians in the city. The school spent its first decade in rented rooms above a livery stable before moving into an elaborate Victorian on N.W. 14th and Couch in 1886. The new building was state of the art, with a 150 seat auditorium, a dissecting room with 20 tables, and a new refrigerator large enough to store 30 cadavers for the anatomy class.