A History of Stanford Medicine

By Samuel Phineas Upham

The first medical school in the Western United States was founded by a man named Elias Samuel Cooper. He approached the University of the Pacific, which was known as “California Wesleyan College”, in order to collaborate on this ambitious move. A year later, at the corner of Mission and Third, the University of the Pacific opened its Medical Department.

Cooper managed the department, but his death in 1862 brought operations to a halt.

Two years later, Hugh H. Toland opened the Toland Medical School at the corner of Stockton and Chestnut. The school followed Parisian principles of medical instruction, and it would later become part of the University of California.

Meanwhile, Levi Cooper Lane was preparing to revive and re-vamp the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific. He re-named it Cooper College, after his uncle, and established the college in a pristine brick building at the corner of Sacramento and Webster.

The school admitted its first female student in 1877, and a surgical theater was built in 1890 for students to observe. The facility grew to 100 beds by 1895, and it included a nursing academy as well.

The Bubonic Plague arrived by ship in the early 1900s, and it quickly swept through San Francisco. Although Levi Cooper Lane had done great work reviving the medical college, he later signed a document from the mayor of San Francisco denying publicly that the plague existed. Fortunately, Lane’s gaffe did little to ruin the credibility of the school he’d built. Stanford acquired the school formally in 1906, under the condition that the campus switch to an emphasis on medical research.


About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn.