History of the College

In 2014 the University of Manitoba brought together its community of health educators, experts and researchers to form the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Faculty of Medicine, along with the Faculties of Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy and Schools of Dental Hygiene and Medical Rehabilitation, were integrated in the new Faculty; today the former Faculty is known as the College of Medicine within the health sciences faculty.


Early beginings

Imagine a growing frontier city of 20,000 people seeking their futures in railways and land. There were houses, hotels, bars, boarding houses, churches and schools. This was Winnipeg, 1883. Hospitals were beginning to appear and prospective medical students needed a medical school they could attend in the prairies instead of having to move to Eastern Canada.  James Kerr, the first Dean of Medicine, said it best in his address he delivered on the evening of Thursday, November 15, 1883.

"This fact, I think, is somewhat characteristic of the country in which we live and its extraordinary progressive tendencies, for I believe it to be the first time in the history of medicine that the student requested that he should be supplied with teachers, instead of teachers soliciting the students to be taught."

But where would the resources come from?

"It was fantastic. There were no buildings. There was no money to pay salaries. There was just a faculty of thirteen young general physicians and a school inspector who was to teach chemistry. But against the lack of physical assets, they set their very youth, their energy, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit," said Dr. Bruce Chown.

The fight began to build a medical school in Manitoba. Meetings were held, voices heard and decisions made. Unfortunately, in June 1883 a vote was taken and both Dr. Kittson and Dr. Brett voted against the school since they saw no need.

However, the prospective medical students didn't defer from their goal. They built relationships with allies like Mr. John. B. Fawcett, who was the Principal of the Collegiate Department of the Public School and who had his own ambition of becoming a doctor, especially after the death of his beloved daughter. They also spoke with Dr. W.H.B Aikins, a product of both Eastern schools and European studies. He proposed to found a medical school of his own, a proprietary one in July 1883. But this idea was unwelcomed and short lived as such schools in the United States had negative connotations attached.

Instead, the young prospective doctors agreed to try to apply for an Act of Incorporation for a medical college. Two main principles were agreed upon. First, the degrees would be granted by The University of Manitoba, not the Medical College, ensuring that adequate standards were met, secondly, the Medical College would be founded by established practitioners establishing the continuing involvement and responsibility of the physicians in the community of Winnipeg.

But the fight was far from over. According to the "Sun" on September 13, 1883 a bill of incorporation to the Legislature needed to be submitted by each of the following: Drs Kerr, Jones, Brett, Whiteford, Good, Paterson, Blanchard, A.H. Ferguson, R.B. Ferguson, Sutherland, Codd and Wilson. Only as a poor gag, a practical joker arranged to have each member in turn called out on the pretext of a medical emergency. The bar was soon emptied by doctors rushing all over Winnipeg on false calls.

So instead the prospective medical students, an innovative group, had to persuade the founders of the Medical College, who would be the faculty, to proceed. Proceed they did with enthusiasm and on November 13, 1883, the School Board assented to use of the Central Collegiate Institute for the Medical College. The first lecture was given at 8 a.m., November 21, 1883 by Dr. R. J. Blanchard, at the Collegiate Institute, and thus began the future of medical education in Manitoba.