VP&S Firsts

250 Years of Trailblazing Medicine

Columbia's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons has a rich legacy of innovation dating back to the earliest days of medical education in the Thirteen Colonies. We were the first institution in the colonies to grant the MD degree, in 1770 (as King’s College, the original name of Columbia College), and, ever since, we have played a prominent role in shaping the field of academic medicine—from training the brightest young physicians and scientists to conducting groundbreaking research to delivering the very highest level of care to our patients.

Discoveries made by VP&S faculty, alumni, and students have expanded the understanding of human disease and advanced the practice of medicine, not only here at Columbia but across the country and around the world. VP&S “firsts” include breakthroughs in cardiology, neuroscience, genetics, pediatrics, and many other fields and subspecialties.

Columbia doctors and researchers performed the first successful pediatric cardiac transplant, the first total knee replacement, and were the first to identify and develop testing for cystic fibrosis. Our discoveries have resulted in new clinical procedures that have had a profound impact on care and research, such as cardiac catheterization and “Whipple’s procedure” for pancreatic cancer; new medications, ranging from the topical antibiotic Bacitracin to the glaucoma drug Xalatan; and new diagnostic assessments, such as blood testing for prostate cancer and a number of now-standard prenatal tests. We established the first psychoanalytic training center affiliated with a university anywhere in the world and are currently home to major research centers dedicated to neuroscience, cancer, diabetes, and more.

Celebrating 250 Years: P&S Firsts