Birth of UCI College of Medicine


The birth of the University of California at Irvine and the transfer of the California College of Medicine to UC Irvine

California so far has been the only state in the U.S. where a merger agreement was signed between the professional organizations of osteopathic and allopathic medicine. Developing these agreements in 1961 required close attention to the Constitutions and Bylaws of the California Medical Association and to the principles of medical ethics of the American Medical Association. The primary objective of the merger agreement expressed the anticipation of improved healthcare and education for Californians.

In essence, the merger stipulations resulted in three steps to be taken:

  1. The College of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (COP&S), at that time the only osteopathic medical school in California, had to be converted into an allopathic medical school
  2. The Board of Osteopathic Examiners had to be repealed
  3. The California Osteopathic Association would cease to exist

The Articles of Incorporation of COP&S were adapted to function as those for an allopathic college of medicine. On November 16, 1961, the Board of Trustees of COP&S changed the name of the college to California College of Medicine (CCM). Dean Grace Bell became the Founding Dean of CCM.

A few months later, Benjamin Wells, M.D., Assistant Chief Medical Director for Research and Education in Medicine at the Veterans Administration in Washington DC, was appointed as the first allopathic dean. Dr. Wells was a well-published researcher in the field of clinical pathology. Dean Grace Bell became Associate Dean.

Granting the first M.D. degree

In order to be in compliance with the CMA Constitution and Bylaws, COP&S had to be converted to an M.D. school and accredited by the California Board of Medical Examiners. Only then could the D.O.s be granted an M.D. degree that was acceptable to the CMA. Converting COP&S into an allopathic medical school required an assessment by allopathy regarding its qualifications to function as an allopathic medical school.

Professor Grace Bell, Dean of COP&S in 1961, prepared and coordinated visits by the American Association of Medical Colleges until accreditation was received. She was the first to be granted the M.D. degree on March 7, 1962 by the Board of Trustees, followed by 361 faculty members. The graduating students followed later that spring, and 1,750 practicing D.O.s followed on July 14 and 15, 1962. In all, of the 2,696 D.O.s who were granted the M.D. degree, 1,953 were COP&S graduates.

What to do with the new M.D.s

Former osteopathic physicians with a new M.D. degree were placed under the Medical Board. Applications for licensure at the Medical Board were usually categorized according to the applicant’s training. One category comprised “allied health professionals”, including nurse practitioners, emergency medical technicians, physical therapists, physician assistants, podiatrists, and chiropractors. In 1962, applications by former osteopathic physicians and members of the 41st Medical Society were referred to this category of allied health professionals.

Dolores Grunigen, in her position as Assistant to the Executive Secretary in the Medical Licensing Board at the state government, was responsible for the licensing process of allied health professionals, including the newly degreed former osteopathic physicians. Mrs. Grunigen evaluated their credentials and qualifications for licensure to facilitate an expedient licensing process.

Transferring the California College of Medicine to UC Irvine

Dr. Wells abruptly resigned after one year of service from July 1, 1962 to June 30, 1963, partly because CCM’s continued existence as a free-standing medical college seemed no longer financially viable. A sense of uncertainty prevailed. During the search process for a new dean, Dr. Bell was Interim Dean from July 1, 1963 till February 1, 1964 when Dr. Bostick was appointed as dean.

Dr. Bell, together with Dr. Grunigen, turned to Senator Teale for help. He had just received the year before his M.D. degree from CCM. A plan was developed to affiliate CCM with the University of California, Irvine. The political situation was favorable for the negotiators in 1963, because the state had just decided to create three new medical schools, including one in Orange County.

In order to make the California College attractive to the UC Regents, Senator Teale crafted a special bill, SB 1414, that designated the affiliation of the California College of Medicine with the University of California. In his capacity as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, he appropriated an additional $ 500,000 to the college operational budget.

Transferring the California College of Medicine to UC Irvine

The Regents responded favorably to the proposal and CCM became part of the UC system in 1963. The College was to be transferred from Los Angeles to the UC campus in Irvine as soon as possible. The date for moving CCM to the campus of the University of California at Irvine was set for August 29, 1968.

The move to UC Irvine occurred in two stages. For the first several years, basic sciences were still taught in Los Angeles, while clinical sciences were already taught at the University of California, Irvine. The library of CCM was moved to the Special Collection of the UC Irvine Library.

The training of physicians was conducted at the Orange County General Hospital in Orange and at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Long Beach. Orange County General Hospital was located in the City of Orange and served the surrounding semi-rural communities of lower socio-economic status than the communities of higher income in South Orange County, including Irvine. Orange County General Hospital had a firm tradition in allopathic medicine. In contrast to Los Angeles County Hospital, Orange County Hospital had never permitted D.O.s to obtain staff privileges.

Dean Bostick felt easily welcomed at Orange County General Hospital and appreciated the hospital’s generosity, permitting the College to conduct its residency programs there and making available much needed office space. The County Hospital received a stipend from Orange County in recognition of the hospital’s relatively large property taxes. This stipend was used to support the facility for a period of time by supplementing the costs of care for the indigent.

In spite of the good working relationship with Orange County General Hospital, Dean Bostick’s objective continued to provide training at a campus-based hospital in Irvine. The first effort to build a campus hospital began in 1972 when a bond issue was passed, but these efforts were met with resistance. Thus, in 1976, the University of California at Irvine obtained the Orange County General Hospital and renamed the facility as University of California Irvine, Medical Center.

The legacy of osteopathic musculoskeletal manipulation at UC Irvine

At the “old school” (COP&S), osteopathic manipulation had been taught as part of general medicine. In 1946, a separate Department of Osteopathic Therapeutics & Rehabilitation was organized. It also absorbed physical therapy from the Department of General Medicine. A goal for the Department was to correspond closely with the section of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) of the American Medical Association.

In 1952, a Department of PM&R was formally established. When in 1968 the College moved from Los Angeles to the UC Irvine campus, the Department continued under the leadership of Dr. Arminski who served as the interim chair and chief of PM&R at the Orange County General Hospital.

In 1970, Jerome Tobis, M.D. was appointed Chair of the Department and Chief of PM&R services at Orange County General Hospital.  An inpatient rehabilitation service of 25 beds was established in 1971, along with the residency program.  In 1973, the training program was integrated with the Long Beach Residency Program which had been organized by Dr. Michela at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in 1962.  The rotation of training for the residents eventually included the Long Beach Memorial Hospital, St. Jude Hospital of Fullerton, the VA Hospital and the Orange County General Hospital.  There were 20 residency positions. 

In 1982, Jen Yu, M.D., Ph.D. was appointed as the Department Chair. The residency program has continued to thrive and to this day is regarded highly on a national basis.  The residency involves PM&R services at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, the Long Beach VA Medical Center, and the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

Major clinical and associated basic science research interests in the department have included musculoskeletal manipulation, geriatric medicine, neurorehabilitation, spinal cord injury, functional magnetic stimulation, myofascial pain, and complementary medicine. Through the 1970s, the 41st Medical Trust funded Dr. Tobis and his colleagues to carry out the first single blinded randomized clinical trial conducted in America to assess the efficacy of an osteopathic manipulation procedure for patients with low back pain.

Absorbing the California Osteopathic Association into the California Medical Association

August 1962, the COA was absorbed by the CMA and received its charter as the 41st Medical Society in the California Medical Association. Dr. Joseph Cosentino, as the last COA president, became the first president of the 41st Medical Society.

The 41st Medical Society was created especially for faculty and alumni of the former COP&S and new graduates of the California College of Medicine. Each former D.O. was expected to eventually become a member of his or her County Medical Society. Until that time, though, the 41st Medical Society was their source of continuing information and support.

While the Forty-First Medical Society came to a close in 1997, the Forty-First Medical Trust committee continues to pursue the objective of that unique group of physicians who were trained in the osteopathic and allopathic professions. Their work continues to this day and is described further in Chapter 6 of the book “The Merger: M.D.s and D.O.s in California”, 2008 (Xlibris publisher).