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Historical Profiles

George McClellan, MD:

The Man, the Surgeon, the Founder

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First Chair (1824 - 1838)
Department of Surgery
Jefferson Medical College

Authors:
Jordan P. Bloom, BS
Charles J. Yeo, MD
Pinckney J. Maxwell IV, MD

Source:
The American Surgeon
(full text PDF)
Volume 77, Number 6, June 2011 , pp. 801-802(2)

The Man

  • Born December 22, 1796
  • 1816: Received AB from Yale
  • 1819: Received MD from University of Pennsylvania
  • 1820: Married Elizabeth Steinmetz Brinton, daughter
    of Civil war surgeon John Hill Brinton, MD (JMC 1852)
    of Philadelphia. They Had three sons and two daughters.

The Surgeon

  • 1820: Opened a dissecting room and began lecturing privately to medical students to augment the education that students received at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Maintained large clinical practice as a prominent surgical ophthalmologist
  • 1821: Established nation’s first free eye clinic: the “Institution for the Diseases of the Eye & Ear”

The Founder

  • At the beginning of the 19th century, only four Colleges in the United States possessed medical schools –Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Dartmouth.

  • For several years, Penn alumni and supporters successfully blocked all efforts to form an additional school.

  • In 1824, Dr. George McClellan promoted an audacious idea never tried before
    • Teaching medical students by having them observe experienced doctors treating patients.
    • McClellan’s revolutionary idea, and his willingness to act on it, created Jefferson Medical College, reshaping the way medicine would be taught throughout the world.
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At Jefferson Medical College

  • 1824 - 1838: Chair of surgery at Jefferson
  • 1838: Board of Trustees reorganized the college and McClellan
    was dropped from the faculty
  • 1839: McClellan responded by establishing
    Philadelphia’s third medical school: the Medical Department of Pennsylvania College
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Later Life

  • May 9, 1847: McClellan died suddenly from an ulcerative perforation
    of the small intestine
  • McClellan is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia

Images courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, TJU.