Lane Library

Chapter XXX. Consolidation with Stanford University

Consolidation with Stanford University
1906 - 1912

As early as 1901 Dr. Lane and President Jordan met several times on terms of mutual respect to discuss the feasibility of consolidation of Cooper Medical College with Stanford University. These discussions were followed by Dr. Lane's decision in 1902, just prior to his death, to remove all legal impediments to such a course. Indeed, during the last few years of his life Dr. Lane saw that there was no acceptable alternative to union with Stanford. He became convinced that the survival of free-standing propriety American medical schools such as his depended upon merging with a university. Since union with the University of California was, in view of his past experience, unthinkable, the availability of Stanford as an alternative was a godsend.

During Dr. Ellinwood's stormy tenure from 1902 to 1907 in the presidency of Cooper Medical College, growing interest in joining Stanford culminated in a strong consensus among the faculty in its favor. President Jordan was also favorably disposed to a merger of the institutions but before serious negotiations could begin he was obliged to resolve two major issues - the nature of the educational program to be adopted and the source of funds to support it.


February 1906: A Graduate School of Medical Research

On 20 February 1906 Dr. Jordan wrote to Professor Ophüls commenting on Stanford's financial dilemma and asking his advice on establishing a graduate school of medical research in the Cooper premises. [1]

20 February 1906

Dear Dr. Ophüls:

The great difficulty with us - and it tends to grow larger as we get nearer to it - is the question as to whether the University will be able to maintain the Medical School as it ought to be maintained without cramping the Engineering School and the Library, and other departments already established. . .

Would the proposition to devote the property (of Cooper Medical College) to the establishment of a graduate school of medical research, beginning with a few departments and extending them as gifts were received or as funds were acquired, be favorably considered by the Trustees of the Cooper Medical College?

Dr. Ophüls responded on 22 February to President Jordan's letter of the 20th. [2]

22 February 1906

Dear President Jordan:

I received your kind letter of February the 20th today. We understand your misgivings about the financial outlook of the undertaking, still we believe that by proper management any undue expense to the University can be avoided. If you will permit us we should like to submit more detailed plans as to the way in which the change might be best effected, and about the expenses which we would consider necessary to make a creditable beginning. We do not believe that it would be advisable to start on too large a scale but to begin with a working nucleus of good men who would be willing to spend the necessary time and energy without immediate large recompensation in gradually building up a Department which by the prestige given to it by its connection with the University and by its own efforts would soon develop successfully and if necessary attract endowment.

As the only competing Medical College on the Pacific Coast has already raised its entrance requirements to very nearly the desired level we could hope to attract a sufficient number of students to make such a Medical Department self-supporting.

In regard to your question we feel that the graduate research school should be looked upon as the highest development to be reached eventually. A substratum of several successive student generations of academic culture is necessary to evolve the desire and the capacity for research work of a higher order. From my own experience I know that at present very few men are available who are at all fitted to undertake such work in Medicine and who could successfully support by their work an institution of the kind that you suggest.

We feel that we have to make certain provisions for the coming semester, several important positions should be filled within a reasonable time in justice to our students, still our hands are tied as long as we are uncertain about the future development of our School. On this account it would be desirable from our standpoint to arrive at least at a general understanding within the near future.

Very sincerely yours,

W. Ophüls

Dr. Ophüls advised against establishment of a graduate school of medical research and outlined a process whereby Cooper Medical College's traditional program could be upgraded to university standards at modest cost - an eminently practical approach, but not sufficiently "scholarly" for Dr. Jordan who, in a letter on 24 February, again asked Dr. Ophüls to give his opinion of the graduate school proposal [3]

24 February 1906

Dear Dr. Ophüls:

I have received your kind letter of the 22nd. . . The question as to whether we should engage in elementary medical education is a very large one. . .It would seem to me desirable, if it were possible, that the two medical colleges in the city should be united, either in the name of Stanford or of the University of California (now under the presidency of Benjamin Ide Wheeler). My idea of the research school would be, not to make it dependent at all on the fees or the men who might work in it. . . .

My own feeling at present is in favor of the research idea - of beginning the work without granting the medical degree or any degree other than those now granted by the University. This would mean the development in Stanford University of certain research professorships to be located in the building of the Cooper Medical College and in connection with the Lane Hospital. This college would then become the Department of Medical Research of the University.

I do not wish to put forward this opinion as one which cannot be changed, but at present I am inclined toward it as the most available way of managing the matter on our part. I feel more drawn to the development of a great school of medical research than to the development of a great medical college granting the degree of M. D.

Obviously Dr. Ophüls' letter of February 22nd had not persuaded Dr. Jordan of the advisability of building on the existing program of Cooper Medical College. On the contrary Dr. Jordan had countered by making two proposals that would have been anathema to Dr. Lane and to most, if not all, of his faculty - union with the rival Medical Department of the University of California, and abandonment of the M. D. program in which they had invested their careers.

On 5 March 1906, Dr. Jordan pressed Dr. Ophüls further for an opinion on establishing a graduate school of medical research. [4]

5 March 1906

Dear Dr. Ophüls:

Referring to the possibility of developing a school of medical research on the Cooper College Foundation, I would like to know personally what you think of it; and, if you are in favor of it, I would like to know if you could suggest a workable plan by which such an institution could begin in a small way and rise to an expenditure of fifty or sixty thousand dollars or more a year. I see a good many difficulties in the way, even if the people of the Cooper Medical College were willing to have the property used in that way.

To Dr. Jordan's second appeal for his advice on a graduate school of medical research, Dr. Ophüls again firmly advised against it, this time in considerable detail: [5]

7 March 1906

Dear President Jordan:

. . .Although in many ways it may seem desirable to have only one large Medical School in San Francisco, the practical difficulties in the way of accomplishing this end seem to me insurmountable. On the other hand, comparatively small classes are rather an advantage in a technical school because the instruction can then be a more personal one. This is for instance one of the greatest attractions in the small German Universities. It would also seem probable that two rival schools would advance more rapidly and would do better work on account of the competition between them.

Possibly on account of my education in Germany I cannot even well imagine a Medical Educational Institution which does not embrace undergraduate and graduate instruction and research. A school without research cannot survive, but I also feel that it will hardly do to separate certain features of the research work from the rest. From the research worker the students get their best inspiration and the teaching of the fundamentals of his science may be troublesome to the advanced worker, still it is very good mental exercise which constantly drives him back to essentials. . . .

I am afraid also that an attempt of developing a great School of purely Medical Research on the Pacific Coast now might be a little premature. We have no unusual opportunities in Medicine here that would attract workers from other parts of the world, such as we have them in Biology, for example. We would have to start with our own men largely and they are hardly ready. We will have to develop them from our undergraduate students. This seems to me a strong reason why the beginning could be made more advantageous with undergraduate instruction.

Another difficulty which I see is this, that if an attempt is made to start with too few departments the research faculty might suffer seriously through their isolation. The most important results can only be expected through cooperation.

If the College should stop undergraduate instruction it will almost surely lose the most valuable part of its clinical and pathological material at the City and County Hospital, because the material is offered for the express purpose of instructing students.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital Medical School was started somewhat in the same way as you a Research Institution. In that case the plan was feasible on account of the large endowment which was sufficient to cover the expenses for clinical material, excellent teachers and workers in the Clinical Departments. Apart from that there was enough left to run a first class Pathological Department. In our case the means would hardly suffice for such an undertaking.

Very respectfully,

Wm. Ophüls

Dr. Jordan's attraction to the concept of "a graduate school of medical research" is traceable to the advice he received from Dr. Clarence J. Blake, Professor of Otology at Harvard. Dr. Jordan had consulted Dr. Blake as early as 1902 regarding the program to be developed on the premises of Cooper Medical College, should they be ceded to the University. In a letter to President Jordan dated 17 September 1902, Dr. Blake commented enthusiastically on the news that Stanford might fall heir to Cooper Medical College. He cited all the good reasons why proprietary schools like Cooper should be absorbed by universities like Stanford for the betterment of American medicine. He did not then propose establishing a graduate school of medical research in the Cooper facilities. That advice came later and was then, as we have seen, supported by President Jordan. [6]

Dr. Blake attended the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard and then the Harvard Medical School where he received an M. D. degree in 1865. He was interested in diseases of the ear. Finding no place in the United States to take advanced training in this field, he studied under Dr. Politzer at the Vienna Krankenhaus. Although a busy clinician in Boston he was also active in research in his specialty. [7]

Dr. Blake cited no American graduate schools devoted exclusively medical research which could serve as successful examples of the type of program he strongly recommended for Cooper Medical College, nor did he take account of the state of development of medicine on the Pacific Coast, as did Dr. Ophüls. On the whole, Dr. Blake's advice seemed more theoretical than practical .In a letter to President Jordan on 18 March 1906, he summarized his visionary plan as follows: [8]

The plan I have in mind, and for the success of which there are, I believe, reasonable grounds, begins with the establishment, by your University, of a medical department, not of undergraduate instruction, but one devoted exclusively to the teaching of graduates in medicine and to medical research, and continues, by subsequent collaboration with the University of California, in the formation of a joint medical school, or department, insuring the command of medical education upon the Pacific Coast under university control.

The time for duplication of medical schools in this country has passed, and the demand for concentration, and for unification and advance, of educational standards, as part of the general University system, is imperative because of the rapid progress of medical education, along strictly scientific lines, and the correspondingly larger sociological opportunities of the medical profession.

In spite of Dr. Ophüls' championing of enhancement of the existing program at Cooper Medical College as the course to be followed after merger with Stanford, a position shared by Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, President Jordan continued to favor the plan outlined by Dr. Blake. On 2 May 1906, two weeks after the great earthquake and fire, the President made a report to the Stanford Trustees advising union with the Cooper Medical College on the basis of the Blake plan. [9] [10]

Later in the month (20 May 1906) Dr. Jordan wrote to Dr. Ophüls saying that he had advised the Trustees to adopt the (Blake) plan for a graduate school of medical research, but that the Directors of Cooper Medical College did not approve of the proposal: [11]

20 May 1906

Dear Dr. Ophüls:

I have recommended to our Board of Trustees the acceptance of the Cooper Medical College property on condition that we could use it, at least for the present, as a school of medical research. . . . Mr. Horace Davis, President of the Stanford Board of Trustees, tells me that the authorities of the Cooper Medical College do not approve. . . . The case then remains a matter of financial ability. . . . If it would result in crippling the instruction at Palo Alto, then it would be something we could not afford to undertake. . . . The action of the Board will probably depend upon the reports made by the Finance Committee when the matter is ready for final decision. . .

On 29 May 1906 Dr. Ophüls, who was vacationing in Brooklyn, New York at the time, responded as follows to President Jordan's letter of 20 May: [12]

Brooklyn , N. Y. , 29 May 1906

Dear President Jordan:

I received your kind letter of May 20th yesterday. I was glad to hear that you favor so strongly the proposed union of Cooper College with Stanford University. I still believe that even without any large endowment the University could develop a first class Medical School and an institution for Medical Research from the present assets of Cooper Medical College. As long as the spirit is the right one from the beginning, the scope of the work can easily be enlarged in the future as means become available. . .


Prophetic words

For practical purposes, the character of the educational program to be developed under Stanford auspices in the Cooper Medical College facilities was now decided. That is, Dr. Jordan's advice to establish a graduate school of medical research had been firmly rejected by the Cooper Directors. In retrospect we can recognize in this decision their loyalty to the goals of Dr. Lane, and their historic prescience as to the best path for the College in the future. It should be noted, however, that this insistence by the Cooper College faculty on maintaining the M. D. program did not deter Dr. Jordan from continuing to explore for some months to come the possibility of establishing a graduate school of medical research.

In any case, serious consideration of consolidation of Cooper Medical College and Stanford could now begin with a view to creating a university-level M. D. program of teaching, research and patient care within the existing framework of the College, as advised by Drs. Ophüls and Wilbur - keeping in mind, of course, that financing the consolidation remained as a complex and controversial problem yet to be solved.

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