Early last year, in anticipation of the School of Medicine’s bicentennial in 2010, we asked for your thoughts on the most significant events and personalities of the school’s first two centuries [See “200 Years of Medicine at Yale,” Spring 2009].

Dozens of readers responded to our survey and offered their opinions, starting with who or what had the greatest impact in shaping the school. The winner hands down was the creation of the Yale system in the 1920s, which garnered the votes of 84.6 percent of our respondents. Runners-up were the school’s founding in 1810 (10.8 percent) and the admission of women in 1916 (4.6 percent). Several of you named the admission of African-Americans, the thesis requirement, and the involvement of students in providing health care to uninsured families in the New Haven community. One alumnus wrote, “The Yale system treats medical education like a serious field, not just a trade, and treats students like serious adults who have something to contribute.”

The greatest scientific advance? The finding by the late Dorothy Horstmann, M.D., FW ’43, the John Rodman Paul Professor Emerita of Epidemiology and Pediatrics, that the polio virus enters the central nervous system through the bloodstream. That finding, which paved the way for the Salk vaccine, won the votes of 50.8 percent. John P. Peters’ transformation of clinical chemistry into a discipline of precise quantitative indicators of disease received 40.7 percent of the vote. And 8.5 percent chose the first antiviral drug, developed by William Prusoff, Ph.D., in the 1950s.

In the clinical realm, 65.6 percent said the first successful use of penicillin in the United States was the school’s greatest clinical advance. The discovery of nitrogen mustard as a treatment for cancer won the votes of 23.4 percent; and 10.9 percent chose the introduction of fetal heart monitoring in the 1950s.

Among faculty, 41.7 percent of you said John Fulton possessed the most extraordinary scientific mind; 35.4 percent chose Dorothy Horstmann; and 22.9 percent chose George Palade.
Among basic science classes, you were most impressed with anatomy, although many of you also named physiology, pharmacology, and pathology. Your most memorable clinical experiences ranged widely—from physical diagnosis to being a chief resident, from caring for victims of a 1950s New Haven fire to treating patients during World War II.

Your favorite extracurricular activities and favorite memories spanned the gamut from attending and participating in sports, plays, and musical productions to the meals you shared with classmates and colleagues; from trips to sanitariums to going to chapel; and from meeting and dating your future spouses to spending time in the outdoors. Many of you fondly remember New Haven pizza. And one of you wrote, “Do you really think we had time for extracurricular activities?"