Baylor College of Medicine

By: Charles T. Morrissey

Type: General Entry

Published: February 22, 2022

Updated: February 22, 2022

Baylor College of Medicine, the only private medical school in the Southwest and the first institution to locate in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, occupied the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building there in 1947. The school was founded in Dallas in 1900, when Texas had only two other schools of medicine—the University of Texas School of Medicine, which started in Galveston in 1891, and the Fort Worth School of Medicine, which began in 1894. It was the first of eight medical schools to be organized in Dallas during the first decade of the twentieth century. With three physicians as incorporators and a charter filed with the Texas secretary of state on September 15, 1900, this proprietary school was named the University of Dallas Medical Department, even though the University of Dallas did not exist. Having leased the former Temple Emanu-el at what is now 1306 Commerce Street, the school enrolled eighty-one students for its opening on November 19, 1900. Some of these students had previously attended medical lectures elsewhere; some had already been practicing medicine without degrees. At the first commencement, held on April 18, 1901, fifteen diplomas were awarded, and in 1902–03 twenty-two more were bestowed.

On June 29, 1903, the University of Dallas Medical Department became Baylor University College of Medicine. Over time, other "Baylor units in Dallas" evolved around the College of Medicine—schools of pharmacy and nursing and a college of dentistry—all associated with Baylor University Hospital (now Baylor University Medical Center). The Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston were the only medical schools in Texas to survive Abraham Flexner's stern criticisms of low standards of medical education in his harsh and famous report of 1911. Between 1903 and 1943 Baylor awarded M.D. degrees to 1,670 graduates.

The latter year, 1943, marks a watershed in Baylor's evolution, because a severe conflict arose between civic leaders and physicians in Dallas and Baylor administrators over the denominational character of the College of Medicine. Governance of Baylor derived its authority from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, even though the college had not required sectarian allegiances with respect to faculty appointments and student admissions. Dr. Walter H. Moursund, its dean from 1923 to 1953, was a Presbyterian, not a Baptist. But Baylor faced unpalatable alternatives: in exchange for fiscal support and new quarters in a proposed new medical center to be erected on Hines Boulevard in Dallas, the medical college was expected to relinquish administrative control and denominational affiliation. Otherwise it would be excluded from the envisioned medical center in favor of a newly founded nonsectarian medical school. Baylor extricated itself by accepting an invitation from the M. D. Anderson Foundation and other Houston benefactors to move to Houston. The move was completed by July 12, 1943, when the Baylor College of Medicine began its Houston era in a former Sears, Roebuck and Company building on Buffalo Drive. These renovated quarters housed the college until the Cullen Building was ready for occupancy.

The other Baylor units in Dallas continued to operate in that city. Shortly after Baylor moved the medical school to Houston, the newly organized Southwestern Medical College—which in 1949 became the University of Texas Southwestern Medical College—was formed by the physicians and community leaders who were displeased with Baylor's denominational affiliation. The relationship between the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baylor College of Medicine was terminated by a mutual agreement in 1969, and the school became a freestanding corporation, nonsectarian and nonprofit, governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees. With "University" dropped from its name, and with Dr. Michael E. DeBakey occupying its presidency from 1969 to 1979, Baylor College of Medicine was superbly positioned to appeal for support from Houston philanthropy and benefactors elsewhere and to receive federal funds for biomedical research, without hindrances imposed by traditional Baptist antipathy towards breaching the separately perceived realms of church and state.

Despite its status as a private school Baylor, since 1971, has annually received state appropriations from the Texas legislature to subsidize the medical education of Texas residents. This partnership allowed Baylor to double the size of each entering class to 168 registrants, of whom no fewer than 70 percent are Texans, who in turn pay tuition fees no higher than those levied by state medical schools. Three major fund-raising campaigns from 1971 to 1982 raised $114.5 million in gifts. In 1993 Baylor stood first among Texas medical schools and third among the state's universities for receiving federal funds for research and development. Nationally, Baylor ranks among the top medical schools in federal research support.

Since its founding Baylor has trained more than 11,251 physicians and residents. In 1993 almost 4,400 of this number were in practice in Texas, more than 2,000 of them in the Houston area. One of every seven physicians now practicing in Texas was trained at Baylor.

Baylor's graduate school enrolls 237 students in thirteen Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences and an M.S. program in nurse anesthesiology. About 835 resident physicians receive training in twenty-two medical specialties offered jointly by Baylor and its eight primary affiliated teaching hospitals. Another 443 students are either postdoctoral fellows or students in allied health programs, where they learn nuclear medicine technology, nurse midwifery, and similar skills and earn certification as physicians' assistants. In 1972 Baylor and the Houston Independent School District started this nation's first high school for health professions, and between 1983 and 1990 the college developed similar programs for high school students in Mercedes and Corpus Christi. Altogether, 4,146 students of varying levels and ages attend Baylor or Baylor-supported schools.

In 1993 the Baylor faculty numbered 3,526 (1,368 full-time, 103 part-time, 2,007 voluntary, and 48 emeritus). Its staff consisted of 3,586 employees (2,964 full-time and 622 part-time). Baylor is fully accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, administered jointly by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and also by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Since occupying the Roy and Lillie Cullen Building in 1947, Baylor has expanded its physical plant by erecting Jesse H. Jones Hall (1964), M. D. Anderson Hall (1964), the Jewish Institute for Medical Research (1964), the Michael E. DeBakey Center for Biomedical Education (1980), the Family Practice Center (1983), the Ben Taub Research Center (1986), and the Vivian and Bob Smith Medical Research Building (1989). Together with Methodist Hospital of Houston it has administered the Neurosensory Center of Houston since 1977, and with Texas Children's Hospital and the United States Department of Agriculture it has operated the Children's Nutrition Research Center since 1988. A Woodlands campus, north of Houston, is the site of the Baylor Center for Biotechnology, which is dedicated to marketing commercially viable products from laboratory research done by Baylor scientists.

An ambitious capital gifts campaign, launched in 1988 to expand Baylor's physical plant, endow professorships, and provide student aid, exceeded its goal of $175 million in 1992. In 1993 the college's endowment stood at $253.1 million. Its total research support (including affiliated institutions) was nearly $160 million, and this research capability generated more than $900 million annually for the Texas economy. Baylor research gives special priority to studies of the molecular basis of genetic ailments.

John S. Chapman, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School: Medical Education in Dallas, 1900–1975 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1976). Lana Henderson, Baylor University Medical Center (Waco: Baylor University Press, 1978). Walter H. Moursund, A History of Baylor University College of Medicine (Houston, 1956).

  • Religion
  • Baptist
  • Education
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Charles T. Morrissey, “Baylor College of Medicine,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022,

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February 22, 2022
February 22, 2022

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