History of the Faculty of Medicine

Faculty History

The University of Ottawa was first established as the College of Bytown in 1848. In 1866, the College received a university charter entitling it to grant the degree of Bachelor of Medicine. 

The Faculty of Medicine was established in 1945 through the initiative of Father Lorenzo Danis who intended to provide post-war opportunities for French and English-speaking Catholics to study medicine. The first medicine courses were given in unused army barracks at the corner of Somerset Street East and King Edward Avenue. A temporary executive council chaired by Father Danis administered the Faculty until 1950 when Dr. Arthur Richard was appointed as the first dean. The Faculty awarded its first medical degrees the following year in 1951. 

In the autumn of 1954, the Faculty relocated from its temporary home in the wartime barracks to a new building on the University’s main campus, where it remained for nearly a quarter of a century. 

In 1965, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the Faculty submitted a request with the College of Arms of London to grant and assign its own proper armorial bearings. At this time, the Faculty adopted the official motto of “Sanando docemus” (“In healing, we teach”). The official armorial bearings were assigned by the letters patent under the signature and seal of the Garter King of Arms to the University for the Faculty on June 1, 1971. The Faculty is one of only three faculties of medicine in Canada with its own coat of arms, which was designed by its second dean, Dr. Jean-Jacques Lussier, who understood and emphasized the importance of symbolism’s role in tradition and culture. 

Throughout the sixties and seventies, extensive planning between the Faculty and the Hospital Planning Council created the concept of the Ottawa Health Sciences Centre on the Alta Vista site, which would join together the University’s medical school and nursing programs with a number of its affiliated teaching hospitals. The new Health Sciences building was inaugurated in 1982 and renamed Roger Guindon Hall in 1984 after the former University rector who played a key role in the building’s development. 

Changes made to the Faculty during this time were not limited solely to location. The University created the Faculty of Health Sciences in 1978, merging the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Human Kinetics together under the structure of the Faculty of Medicine’s existing governance. The occupational therapy and physiotherapy programs were added in 1986. By 1989, under the Dean Dr. Gilles Hurteau, the Faculty of Medicine regained its status as a separate academic unit.

In 1995, the Office of Francophone Affairs was established to support and dedicate resources to the growth of French medical education in Canada. Today, the Faculty still enjoys tenure as the nation’s only bilingual medical school. 

The Aboriginal Program was created in 2005. In addition to increasing enrolment of Aboriginal students in medical education, the program was founded to promote awareness of Aboriginal cultures, health and social issues in Canada. 

In 2014, a year away from its 75th anniversary, the Faculty joined forces with China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine to establish the Ottawa-Shanghai Joint School of Medicine, the world’s first Sino-Canadian joint medical school.

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