Old and new photos of medical school graduates


The Larner College of Medicine recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of its first class of medical graduates. As the seventh oldest medical school in the United States, it has witnessed significant changes not only in medicine and science but also in the dynamics of America and the world. By Angela Ferrante


Established less than fifty years after America gained independence from British colonial rule, its history is intricately linked with the nation’s evolving landscape. The College’s narrative includes a diverse range of experiences, encompassing issues like wars, racism, and sexism that have left a lasting impact on society.

It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that UVM, home to the Larner College of Medicine, opened its doors to any person of color. The College’s history, like that of the nation, bears the scars of a tumultuous past. While the earliest female UVM student walked to class in the spring of 1872, women were not admitted to medical school here until 1920. While the history of the Larner College of Medicine includes such jarring disparities, it is also punctuated by remarkable achievements and advancements; Thaddeus Stabholz, a survivor of six Nazi death camps and author of the book “Siedem Piekiet” (Seven Hells), a detailed memoir of his life during the Holocaust, entered the Class of 1953 at what was then known as the UVM College of Medicine. In 1962, during the height of America’s Civil Rights Movement and only a mere two years after a courtordered integration in New Orleans, Louisiana admitted Ruby Bridges—the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South—into William Frantz Elementary School, J.W. Clemmons, Ph.D., M.D., emeritus professor of pathology, joined the College as the second African American faculty member. An invaluable member of the community, Clemmons taught and conducted research at UVM for more than 30 years.

Embracing Change for Two Centuries
While cherishing its traditions and history, Larner is not chained to the past, but is an institution that embraces change as an essential part of its identity to advance its mission. The College understands that health care is ever evolving, with advances in medical science, shifting patient demographics and changing societal norms to name but three dynamics continuously moving the goalposts. To excel in this landscape, Larner is committed to innovation.

In a time of rapid change, Larner is determined to develop alongside the communities it serves, recognizing the importance of diversity in health care. The institution aims to reflect the changing demographics of its patient populations, understanding that inclusivity is a top priority that ultimately improves patient care and outcomes.

A Gift Fueling Innovation
A generous gift in 2016 from Dr. Robert Larner, a Class of 1942 graduate, and his wife, Helen, accelerated the College’s transformation and enabled investments in cutting-edge technology, human capital, infrastructure, teaching methods, and curriculum.

Their donation provided the College with the means to launch several key initiatives, including the digitization of the curriculum, the creation of innovative classrooms to facilitate active learning, the establishment of an advanced simulation center for clinical skill development, and the recruitment of an endowed Professor of Medical Education to lead the Teaching Academy. Their philanthropy has empowered countless aspiring physicians and biomedical researchers, emphasizing the transformative power of generosity.

Moving Forward
The Larner College of Medicine’s investments in education have produced impressive outcomes. Vermont ranks first in the nation for active patient care primary care physicians per capita and fifth in all physicians per capita, according to the AAMC State Physician Workforce Data Book (2019).

Admission to the Larner College of Medicine is highly selective. In the class of 2027, only 124 students were enrolled from a pool of 8,569 applicants, ensuring that the institution continues to attract the best and brightest minds.

As the Larner College of Medicine concludes its bicentennial celebration, it not only commemorates a rich history but also embraces a dynamic and evolving future. This journey carries the wisdom of the past and in a health care landscape marked by continuous transformation, the College has charted a visionary path forward, captured in four strategic priorities. They form the foundations upon which a future defined by clinical excellence, innovation in education, pioneering research, and unwavering community health will be built.

Water tower with Firestone Building

View of campus from the new Firestone Medical Research Building

Clinical Excellence
The Larner College of Medicine prioritizes clinical excellence through partnerships and collaborations with the UVM Health Network. The College integrates research and education into network departments, focusing on public health, population health, and value-based care. The HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study collects vital brain development data, extending its reach beyond Burlington.

The Center on Rural Addiction offers “Clinician Office Hours” for substance use disorder expertise, now accessible to rural providers across the U.S. These initiatives reflect Larner’s commitment to improving healthcare access.

Additionally, the College expanded the role of Director of Education to enhance clinical clerkships, graduate medical education, and interprofessional education. Larner’s unwavering commitment to clinical excellence aligns with their mission to provide top-notch care to their communities.

Education for the Future
Larner focuses on educating and preparing future physicians, health care professionals and scientists, emphasizing core medical values while embracing a broader perspective. The College prioritizes interprofessional education and care to address complex health care challenges through multidisciplinary collaboration.

The College’s Office of Medical Education (OME) encourages students to report professional behavior issues and commend exemplary conduct, promoting a positive learning and working environment. With confidential and anonymous reporting, students now submit eight times more commendations than concerns.

The curriculum adapts to the changing health care landscape, covering various areas such as public health, big data analytics, social medicine, and telemedicine integration. Larner’s commitment is not just educational but providing a blueprint for future health care leaders navigating a complex landscape.

Advancing Research
With research at the heart of the College’s academic community, and core of biomedical efforts, it constitutes a third strategic priority. The College hopes to inspire curiosity, foster innovation, and create a culture of continuous learning. Investments in vital infrastructure, including the Firestone Building, the Center for Biomedical Shared Resources (CBSR), and the Given Building renovation are especially crucial in rural Northern New England, where access to biomedical research resources is limited. The CBSR offers state-of-the-art facilities, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and addressing regional research needs. It ensures access to essential resources and enhanced data processing and storage capabilities.

Larner excels in mechanistic, translational, and clinical research while promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. Mentorship programs empower various stakeholders, and the College actively seeks partnerships to diversify research funding. This strategic objective aims not only to conduct research but to pioneer impactful advancements in health care and the future of medicine.

Commitment to the Community
Larner’s community ties underscore its long-standing commitment to Vermont and New England’s well-being, drawing from the University of Vermont’s land-grant legacy. The College prioritizes accessible health care for all socioeconomic groups, using institutional knowledge to support local communities.

The University of Vermont Cancer Center demonstrates its commitment through initiatives like the annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference, a free educational event promoting cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship. Additionally, the Cancer Center provides free skin cancer checks at public events and collaborates with local partners, such as the Lake Monsters, a summer baseball team, to promote sun safety.

Larner’s focus on improving healthcare delivery includes strengthening partnerships with the UVM Health Network and advocating for policies that advance public health and health equity. The College’s dedication to addressing social conditions, particularly in rural and racial health disparities, is ingrained throughout the institution, making community engagement more than just a mission; it’s a profound calling.

Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The Larner College of Medicine, the University of Vermont, and the UVM Health Network are deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI is an integral part of their core values, with programs designed to support and retain students from diverse backgrounds and establish connections with diverse communities.

The appointment of Katie Wells, M.D., M.P.H., as the inaugural director of social medicine in the Office of Medical Education, underscores the College’s ongoing commitment to addressing social medicine within medical education programs. In her role, she will collaborate closely with medical educators and colleagues in Larner’s OME, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dean’s Advisory Committee on DEI, Medical Education Anti-Racism Task Force, and across the community and UVM Health Network.

* * *

A Continuing Journey
Tackling the biomedical challenges of the future will continue to drive the College forward to fulfill its mission. As the Larner College of Medicine embarks on a third century of clinical service, education and research, it remains committed to innovation shaping its direction; a future channeled from the past, filled with enthusiasm, ingenuity, resilience and determination for the journey ahead. VM


(Above) Photos of class of 1906 and class of 2023