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Founding Dean & CEO George Harrell, M.D., pictured here in 1966, oversees initial construction of the Medical Center and College of Medicine.

In 1945, Town founder, philanthropist, businessman, and visionary Milton S. Hershey passes. Before his death, Mr. Hershey placed the majority of his vast wealth in a trust fund to exclusively benefit the school. Over time, as these funds accumulated to levels beyond what was needed to sustain school operations and perceived capital needs, those responsible for Mr. Hershey’s legacy sought an appropriate use of the excess trust funds. Given that Mr. Hershey had supported education and health care during his life, the stewards of his trust fund felt establishing a world class teaching hospital and medical school would be a fitting tribute.

In 1963, The M. S. Hershey Foundation offered $50 million to The Pennsylvania State University to establish a medical school and teaching hospital in Hershey. With this grant and $21.3 million from the U.S. Public Health Service, the University built a medical school, teaching hospital, and research center.

In 1964, George T. Harrell, M.D., accepts the offer to become the founding dean and CEO of what would become Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. His starting annual salary—$30,000 a year. Dr. Harrell’s innovations would make him one of the most influential people in Pennsylvania medical and educational history.

Ground was broken in 1966. Founding Dean & CEO George Harrell, M.D., pictured here in 1966, oversees initial construction of the Medical Center and College of Medicine. The original buildings at Penn State Hershey Medical Center included the Medical Science Building and medical center, Animal Research Farm, Laundry and Steam Plant, and University Manor Apartments. Since 1970, the campus has grown from 318 to 550 acres. Many additions have been made to the academic and patient-care facilities.

In 1967, the College of Medicine opened its doors to its first class of medical students, thirty-seven men and three women, on September 25.

In 1969, Lois Forney becomes the first degree-recipient of Penn State College of Medicine, earning her master of science (M.S.) in physiology.

In 1970, Penn State Hershey Medical Center admits its first patient on October 14, Mrs. Nancy Nightwine. The hospital opens with three floors that include a pharmacy, an emergency department, a psychiatric unit, operating rooms, a blood bank, labor and delivery rooms, a clinical study center, and patient rooms.

In 1971, the first medical school class graduates from the College of Medicine on June 5 on the grounds of the Medical Center. During the ceremony, leaders of the College of Medicine are given a commemorative portrait of Milton Hershey, which still hangs in the College of Medicine lobby today.

In 2008, Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital ranks among the best pediatric hospitals in the nation for the treatment of respiratory disease by U.S. News & World Report. Penn State Hershey Shock Trauma Center is accredited as a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and receives renewal of its accreditation as a Level I Adult Trauma Center by the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation (PTSF). Penn State Hershey becomes the first and only medical facility in Pennsylvania to be accredited as both an adult and a pediatric Level I trauma center. The new accreditation as a Level I pediatric trauma center recognizes the resources available to care for the youngest and sickest injured children.

In 2009, the four-story, 175,000-square-foot Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute opens. The new facility provides a home for cancer-related clinical and research operations as well as a new main hospital entrance. The state-of-the-art facility brings leading-edge cancer treatment and ongoing cancer research together in one location. The new building includes: outpatient clinics with exam rooms, infusion stations, and private treatment rooms, a day hospital, a healing garden to offer a quiet retreat for infusion therapy patients, a radiation oncology suite, and research labs connected to the main hospital and the College of Medicine to encourage collaboration between patient treatment and cancer research.

The Children’s Hospital breaks ground in November on a five-story, free standing facility to include pediatric surgical suites, private rooms, cardiac catheterization lab, and an outpatient pediatric oncology clinic. The plans for the Children’s Hospital were made possible by an additional $3 million commitment from Edward H. and Jeanne Donlevy Arnold.

Today, Penn State Hershey Medical Center has completed several carefully planned construction projects. Additions were made to reflect a steady increase in patient demand for services and to expand research and teaching programs.

To learn more about the history of the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, visit the exciting new exhibits at The Hershey Story.


Hinkle then president of the Hershey Chocolate Corporation

Founding Dean George Harrell, M.D., using building blocks of the medical center to explain his vision for its growth. Harrell came to Hershey in January 1965, a year before ground was broken and immediately took responsibility for the construction of the hospital and the creation of the medical school. One report at the time described him as a “lanky, white-haired, charming Tar Heel”. His starting salary was $30,000 a year. Few people have had the influence on Pennsylvania medicine and education as Dr. Harrell.

Dr. Harrell remains the only medical school dean to have founded two medical schools, the other being at the University of Florida.

Dr. Eric Walker, then-president of Penn State, described this 120-acre site as "an impressive place to put a medical center." Skeptics saw little more than a rural cornfield, and many questioned where a large medical center would find all the patients necessary to support its operation. The Medical Center campus would eventually grow to 550 acres. By 2010, it had annual admissions of nearly 27,000 patients with another 850,000 seen on an outpatient basis.


Founding Chairs

Penn State College of Medicine students have gone on to become productive physicians and scientists. As of May 2010, the College of Medicine has granted 3,904 medical degrees and 1,019 graduate degrees. The College of Medicine offers degree programs in anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, bioengineering, cell and molecular biology, genetics, integrative biosciences, microbiology and immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, and physiology, and two postdoctoral programs leading to an M.S. degree in Laboratory Animal Medicine, the only such program in the commonwealth, and an M.S. in Public Health Sciences. Each year, about 550 resident physicians are trained in medical specialties at the Medical Center.

Nursing students from Penn State College of Health and Human Development B.S. degree program rotate through the Medical Center for clinical courses each term, and students from other Penn State health-related programs and other institutions come to the campus for clinical experience. The extended B.S. degree program for nurses is offered in conjunction with the College of Health and Human Development.

Continuing education programs serve Penn State Hershey Medical Center and health-care professionals throughout Pennsylvania, with enrollments exceeding 51,000 each year.

Among Dr. Harrell’s innovations was the creation of a Department of Humanities. The Department serves to assure a well grounded medical student who never forgets their focus is on treating the whole patient not merely treating disease. Shown here is Al Vastyan founding Chair of that department, a position he held for 21 years.

In July 2009, Jestine Reider donated the right side of her liver to her brother John. The surgery was central Pennsylvania’s first adult living-donor liver transplant, a highly specialized and effective treatment for patients suffering from end-stage liver disease. Penn State Hershey was at the time only the 3rd hospital in Pennsylvania to offer this life saving procedure.

The Medical Center is designated a Magnet™ hospital in August, 2007, and joins an elite group of 4 percent of health care organizations world-wide. Magnet designation recognizes quality patient care, nursing excellence, and innovations in nursing practice.

A state-of-the-art Simulation Center opened in January, 2010 on the second floor of the George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library. The new location more than doubles the space for students and health care providers to practice and acquire the clinical skills needed to provide the highest quality patient care. The Simulation Center includes areas for practicing specific, task-based skills such as inserting an IV or ventilating a patient, or procedures like bronchoscopy, colonoscopy, and laparoscopic surgery

Family and Community Medicine?

In 1976, Dr. William Pierce, professor and chief, Division of Artificial Organs, attaches the world’s first mechanical blood pump for patients awaiting heart transplant or an artificial heart. Between 1976 and 2010 more than 4,000 patients received heart-assist devices based on Penn State technology.

In the 1980’s, College of Medicine researchers, led by Dr. John Kreider, and Dr. Mary K. Howett, and funded by the Jake Gittlen Cancer Research Foundation, perfect a technique for propagating the human papilloma virus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer. Their work provides a way to test vaccines against HPV and contributes to the development of the world’s first cervical cancer vaccine, which received FDA approval in 2006.

On June 4, 1985, Dave the calf receives his artificial heart and lives for 353 days—nearly one full year. Penn State Hershey’s Division of Artificial Organs holds the world record for a calf with an artificial heart (more than one year). Originally led by Dr. William Pierce (third from the right), the division is now headed by Dr. Gerson “Gus” Rosenberg (first on left), an engineer recruited by Pierce in 1970.

Dr. Keith Cheng, in conjunction with colleagues from Penn State University and nearly a dozen other academic institutions, publishes research that helps answer the age-old question, 'Why are people different colors?' in 2005. By recognizing the similarities between the pigmented cells of light-colored zebrafish and humans and understanding their evolutionary kinship, Dr. Cheng's team identifies a key gene change responsible for light skin color among people of European descent. His work, the subject of a December 2005 cover story in the magazine Science, has wide-ranging implications, from understanding the causes of skin cancer to changing perspectives about the role of skin color.

In 2007, Walter Pae, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery, Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, leads a surgical team to implant the CardioWest™ Temporary Total Artificial Heart in James Knarr, a 60-year old man from Halifax, Pennsylvania, suffering from end-stage heart failure. At the time the Medical Center is one of only nine hospitals in the United States that is certified to implant the CardioWest™ heart. Mr. Knarr survives on the CardioWest for ten weeks before receiving a heart transplant.

Pictured being interviewed by Ann Curry on The Today Show in 2004, Penn State Hershey pediatrician, Dr. Ian Paul. Paul’s research demonstrated that cough medicines may be no better than placebos in relieving children’s coughs. Paul’s work was also featured in TIME Magazine’s special 2004 edition of The Year in Medicine.

Kevin Cockroft, M.D., Co-Director of Penn State Hershey Stroke Center holds a vial of Onyx HD, a substance used to treat brain aneurysms. Penn State Hershey is at the leading edge of medicine, offering innovative treatment options that are often not available elsewhere.

In July 2009, Jestine Reider donated the right side of her liver to her brother John. The surgery was central Pennsylvania’s first adult living-donor liver transplant, a highly specialized and effective treatment for patients suffering from end-stage liver disease. Penn State Hershey was at the time only the 3rd hospital in Pennsylvania to offer this life saving procedure.

Basic and clinical research is conducted at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and is supported by more than $100 million in awards from federal, state, and private agencies, businesses, and individuals.

The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, affectionately referred to as THON, is the largest student run philanthropy in the world. Begun in 1973, THON raises millions of dollars each year for the fight to conquer childhood cancer benefitting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children’s Hospital.

When the nation's worse commercial nuclear accident occurred at Three Mile Island on March 28, 1979, it had a dramatic impact on the Medical Center, located just 8.3 miles from TMI. Kenneth L. Miller, certified health physicist, a professor of radiology and the individual primarily responsible for radiation safety at the Medical Center, suddenly found himself immersed in assessing potential risks of radiation exposure and developing contingency plans for hospital patients and staff. Because of his unique experience and rare expertise, Miller remained an interview subject sought after by journalists around the globe with each passing anniversary of the TMI incident.

In 1986, the Medical Center establishes a medical helicopter service, named Life Lion, to provide rapid air transport for critically ill and injured patients across central Pennsylvania. The twin-engine helicopter, designed to transport up to four patients, a flight team, and necessary medical equipment, was the only one of its kind on the east coast at the time. The first inter-hospital flight takes place on December 12 and the Life Lion crew transports the first trauma patient to the Medical Center on December 1.

The University Physician Center (UPC) opened in 1988. The UPC became the first building on Medical Center campus to be used exclusively for outpatient services. The relocation of outpatient services allowed the Medical Center to expand its emergency room and house new cardiac diagnostic facilities.

In 2000, Penn State Hershey opened LionCare, a free clinic at the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg. Run by medical students under the supervision of physicians, the clinic provides medical education, medical supplies and care to the homeless. Just one more example of Penn State Hershey’s ‘heart’.

Kiss Hershey Back is a township-wide cleanup effort led by Penn State College of Medicine students to try and make the Sweetest place on Earth also the Cleanest Place on Earth. This project was started in 2008 by five first year medical students who wanted to give back to the community. They kicked off their idea that fall by seeking the support of the Derry Township Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Works. They then engaged the local school districts, local community groups and organizations, and businesses in conversations about how they could support the event and help get township residents involved. Several groups of volunteers also planted seven American Linden trees at the locations: four along the bike path on Wood Road, two at Shank Park, and one at the Hershey Public Library. More than 800 community members turned out on the date to pick up litter in Derry Township's parks, near its greenways and along its rural roads. Milton Hershey School students, staff, and faculty joined the projects, as did faculty, staff, and students from the Medical Center, more than 250 employees of The Hershey Co., several Boy Scout troops, the local Kiwanis Club, and many other community organizations helped out. It was estimated that 26-28 cubic yards of trash, 8-10 cubic yards of recyclables were collected. Volunteers ended the day on the Medical Center campus with a "thank you" luncheon, catered by The Palmdale Cafe. Lunch materials were recyclable and biodegradable, including plates and flatware made of potato and cups made of corn, all donated by Your Place Restaurant & Pub. Part of the luncheon also involved the raffling off of donated gift certificates and coupons to even volunteers. The first annual event in 2009 was more successful than hoped for, and this year, our expectations are just as high! A new board of first year medical school students are organizing the event for 2011 and are currently in the process of making preparations.

At the end of June 2010, Penn State Hershey Medical Center admitted nearly 27,000 patients and provided care through over 854,000 outpatient and 57,000 emergency-service visits. Penn State Hershey Medical Center has over 8,800 employees and 400 volunteers, and the College of Medicine enrolls 800 students annually.

To learn more about the history of the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, visit the exciting new exhibits at The Hershey Story.

If you would like to learn more about Penn State Hershey's remarkable history, see Memories and Milestones, which traces the organization’s progress from inception to today.