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“A nation which can place men on the moon can develop the competence and necessary compassion to care for its sick.”
– Health Sciences mission statement and proposed structure and governance, University of Minnesota Board of Regents, 1970

From the world’s first successful open heart surgery, to the development of one of the most widely used anti-HIV drugs, health professionals at the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center (AHC) have made important discoveries impacting the health of people and animals worldwide. Our international reputation is built upon a long tradition of leadership in health care discovery and delivery. This legacy began long before our founding in 1970.

History project

Health sciences scholar? Librarian? History buff? Find artifacts, photos, stories, presentations, curiosities, and more blasts from the past through the Academic Health Center History Project. The project documents and preserves the institutional memory and historical events that chronicle the development of health sciences education and research at the University of Minnesota.

Oral histories

People make our past, present, and future. The Academic Health Center Oral History Project preserves and shares the personal stories of key individuals who were involved with the formation of the University's Academic Health Center, served in leadership roles, or have specific insights into the institution's history. Through their voices, learn about changes to medical education, research, patient care, and health policies during the latter half of the 20th century.

 Academic Health Center timeline


2008: The School of Public Health led the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study to better understand the higher than expected rates of mesothelioma reported among men in northeastern Minnesota since the late 1980s.

2008: The Minnesota Masonic Charities presented the University of Minnesota with an extraordinary gift of $65 million—the largest gift ever made to the University—to seek the cure for cancer. In recognition of the gift, the name of the University's cancer center was changed to Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

2002: The Center for Drug Design was established in an effort to unite efficient, high-level research with the design and development of highly effective drugs.

2001: The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) was founded to research and address policy and practical applications in the defense against infectious disease and bio-terrorism, and to promote bio-security and food safety.


1998: University of Minnesota Cancer Center is designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute for cancer research, treatment, and education. Only 41 institutions in the United States hold this highest-level designation.

1998: University researchers developed the anti-retroviral drug Abacavir, now commercially available as the anti-HIV drug Ziagen.

1992: The FDA approved Acyclovir, an antiviral medication developed by Dr. Henry Balfour at the University of Minnesota, for treatment of chickenpox.

1991: The Board of Regents approves the establishment of a cancer center as part of the University’s Academic Health Center. John Kersey, M.D. is named director.


1986: David Snowdon, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota began the Nun Study, a pilot study of aging and Alzheimer's disease. The goal of the Nun Study is to determine the causes and prevention of Alzheimer's disease, other brain diseases, and the mental and physical disability associated with old age.

1980s: The University conducted early research that informed the creation of a vaccine to guard against cervical cancer.


1975: The world first successful bone marrow transplant for malignant lymphoma is performed by a team led by Dr.  John Kersey. Today, the University is an international leader in bone marrow and umbilical cord blood research, and patients from around the world come for treatment.

1970: A report to the Minnesota Higher Education Coordinating Commission the health sciences leadership acknowledged the demands of the citizens for "access to a rational health system at a reasonable cost" while noting that accommodating this change requires a "reshaping [of the University's] mission and organization. The result was the formation of the Academic Health Center.


1968: Immunologist Robert Good performed the world’s first successful bone marrow transplant. University doctors now routinely do transplants for conditions including cancer, genetic disorders, and most recently, to treat a rare and fatal skin condition.

1966: Richard Lillehei and William Kelly performed the world’s first pancreas transplant. This was the start of the University’s prominence in diabetes research and discovery.

1960s: Neurosurgeons including Lyle French, former senior vice president for health sciences, increased survival rates for those undergoing brain cancer surgery by giving the patient a type of steroid before surgery. Now, researchers continue to build on discoveries in the field of brain sciences.


1950s: Veterinary medicine professor Benjamin Pomeroy eradicated a disease in Minnesota that once affected 40% of turkeys. We continue to lead in treating infectious diseases that affect animals, as well as diseases that have the potential to move to humans.


1947: School of Public Health faculty member Ancel Keys began pioneering studies showing a link between diet and heart disease. We continue to be leaders in obesity and cardiovascular research through work in our School of Public Health, School of Nursing and Medical School.

1944: The School of Public Health opened.


1934: A new method for clinical trials is developed by Harold S. Diehl, M.D., director of students' health services at the University of Minnesota. During a series of trials on vaccines for the common cold, Diehl established the practice of randomly assigning trial participants to either a control or experimental group, pioneering double-blind methodology.


1920s: The research of Dr. Robert G. Green, M.D. focused on the evolutionary nature of viruses and how they cause disease. During his tenure, he created a vaccine to prevent encephalitis in foxes. Based on this work with viruses, he went on to investigate how cancer cells spread in the body.


1911: Elliot Memorial Hospital opened as the first hospital in the University of Minnesota health system. Elliot was one of the first teaching hospitals to be fully integrated into and staffed by a university medical school.


1909: The University Hospitals first opened their doors in an old fraternity house and patients were offered care for free.


1892: The campus's first medical education building is built, called Medical Hall. It was renamed for the dean upon his death in 1906, becoming Millard Hall. The College of Pharmacy is established.


The University began offering classes in medicine and veterinary medicine, and the schools of dentistry and nursing opened.


The University began to offer coursework in public health.