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Alpert Medical School

Box G-A1 Providence, RI 02912
Phone: (401) 863-3330
Alpert Medical School
Services: Med education


The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University comprises a community of scholars dedicated to the highest standards of excellence in education, research, and health care. Our mission is to impart to future physicians the state of the art of the scientific, ethical, and humanistic dimensions of medical science and of public health. Further, it is our intent to engrain the skills required to conduct research in order to advance the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness. To that end, the Division of Biology and Medicine, a component of Brown University, must position itself to successfully recruit, mentor, and retain outstanding students, fellows, house staff, and faculty from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.



Brown University first organized a medical program in 1811, following examples set by its New England neighbors, Harvard and Dartmouth. When President Wayland called for all Brown faculty to reside on campus, the physicians serving as voluntary clinical faculty refused to jeopardize their practices in order to comply. After sixteen years of operation, President Wayland suspended the fledgling medical program. There were 87 graduates of Brown's first program in medicine.

By the late 1950s, interest in establishing a medical program at Brown was renewed with sufficient enthusiasm to drive substantial action. Professor J. Walter Wilson, chairman of the Department of Biology and a national authority in the field of cancer research, took the lead. Joining him was John E. Fogarty, U.S. Congressman from Rhode Island, an acknowledged spokesman for health-related research. Together, Wilson and Fogarty forged a powerful vision for medical education and obtained the initial funding for the Institute for Research in the Health Sciences. Both men hoped the Institute would serve as the cornerstone for development of a medical school at Brown.

Brown faculty centered their vision for a medical program on research, while leaders at Rhode Island Hospital and in the community believed deeply that the embrace of academic medicine could also help regional and community hospitals develop high-quality health care services for Rhode Island.

In June 1962, the University Board of Fellows formally approved a program in medical education, guided by these goals:

  • to prepare medical scientists and physicians capable of future leadership in academic medicine, research, and clinical practice;
  • to thoroughly integrate the program into the rest of the University's activities through active participation on the part of the University faculty rather than assignment of the program to a separate faculty;
  • to undertake a new approach to medical education without being influenced unduly by traditional patterns;
  • to assure that other activities of the University did not suffer but would be enhanced by the program.

These goals, while expressed differently over the years, continue to govern medical education at Brown to this day.

Brown initiated an innovative and rigorous Master of Medical Science (MMS) program in 1963. The six-year course of study began with the freshman year of college and culminated in an MMS degree. The MMS program was part of the Division of Biological and Medical Sciences, and Division faculty accepted full responsibility for all of the program's academic offerings. Upon finishing the MMS program, graduates completed the final two years of medical school at traditional four-year schools and obtained the MD degree, or worked toward a PhD at Brown or elsewhere.

The Brown Corporation decided early not to build an academic medical center as other universities were doing, but instead to establish affiliation agreements with existing community hospitals. The State had no need for additional clinical facilities, and the costs would have been prohibitive. In addition to controlling capital costs and the investment of human resources needed to initiate a full-blown clinical education, this decision positively influenced Brown's relationship with the regional community by making it a partner instead of a competitor in the health care arena.

By 1972, Brown's leadership was seriously considering extending the MMS program to a full MD curriculum. The face of medical education was changing. The bulk of federal funding for academic medicine was going to the institutions that were granting MD degrees. Brown's clinical partners were also lobbying for an MD program, complete with clinical and residency provisions that would benefit the growth of Rhode Island hospitals.

The question of whether Brown should grant the MD degree was debated not only on campus, but also throughout the community, with full coverage by the regional press. In March 1972, the Corporation approved the full MD program and, in the spring of 1973, the clinical component of Brown's medical education was launched. Full accreditation as a four-year medical school was granted in 1975, and 58 students (thirteen of whom were women) received their MD degree in June of that year.

In 1976, an early identification admission program was initiated with the University of Rhode Island, Providence College, and Tougaloo College (a historically black college in Mississippi). Through the EIP, promising students are identified in their sophomore year and are admitted to Brown for their medical education. The program now includes Rhode Island College.

From 1981 to 2006, fifteen to twenty students each year were admitted to the Medical School through the Brown-Dartmouth program. Brown-Dartmouth students spent their first two years in medical school at Dartmouth and their last two years at Brown, ultimately earning the Brown MD degree. The joint program derived from the complementarity of the two schools: Dartmouth's basic science teaching resources and rural setting, and the rich diversity of the clerkship experiences offered by Brown's urban campus.

Based on the experience of Brown's first decade in medical education, faculty, administrators and students began planning for expansion of the medical education continuum. There emerged a pioneering concept, uniting premedical and medical education in a single seven- to eight-year course of study. The program provided greater freedom in curriculum planning and more effective integration of non-medical and medical academics, combining the best of a liberal arts education with fine medical training. In 1984-85, the Brown University Corporation approved the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), an eight-year medical continuum. For approximately 60 high school graduates, the PLME combines undergraduate and professional education, while enabling each student to develop graduate-level competence in a selected specialty field.

On October 5, 1991, the Corporation of Brown University voted to change the name of the Program in Medicine to "Brown University School of Medicine." On October 14, 2000, the Corporation again voted to change the name of the school, this time from "Brown University School of Medicine" to "Brown Medical School."

As the Medical School crossed the threshold into the 1990s, faculty and students launched an intensive planning process that culminated in the publication of an educational blueprint for the School's innovative competency-based curriculum. The rationale animating the curriculum lies in the recognition of the need to establish the goals of a medical education: it defines the desirable qualities of a medical school graduate and the essential knowledge base that will enable a graduate to make a successful transition to his or her chosen medical field. In September 1996, the Medical School inaugurated the MD2000 curriculum, so named to reflect that beginning with the Class of 2000, all graduates are expected to demonstrate competency in the knowledge and abilities outlined. Each course within the core curriculum of the Medical School identifies which abilities and elements of the knowledge base it addresses.

In early 2004, the Brown Corporation approved the Plan for Academic Enrichment, an outline for strategic growth and enhancement of the Medical School and the University over the next 10 years. The plan includes adding 100 new faculty positions building new research and classroom facilities, revising the Medical School's curriculum, and initiating new multidisciplinary programs.

In August 2004, 150 researchers, including faculty, laboratory staff and student assistants began moving into a retrofitted 105,000-gross-square-foot building, the Laboratories for Molecular Medicine, in Providence's Jewelry District. There they will conduct more than $10 million in sponsored research annually. Researchers include 27 faculty from four departments at Brown (Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry; Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology; Molecular Microbiology and Immunology; and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine), 10 of whom will hold newly created faculty positions.

On campus the 168,800-square-foot, $95-million Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences opened in October 2004. The facility houses more than 60 new laboratories, a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging facility, and an electron microscopy suite and supports research in the departments of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry. Taken together, these two new facilities represent an increase of approximately 75 percent in Brown's laboratory capacity for life science research.

In January 2007, the University renamed the School in honor of businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist Warren Alpert, in recognition of a $100-million gift from The Warren Alpert Foundation. A portion of the gift will help finance construction of a new building that will house classrooms, administrative offices, and other instructional spaces for The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

The gift will support other investments in medical education at Brown, including:

  • an endowment to establish The Warren Alpert Scholars Program, which will provide scholarship support for medical students;
  • a fund to support biomedical research;
  • a fund for faculty recruitment;
  • two new endowed professorships and an endowment to support faculty-designed innovations in medical education.

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