Founders' Day

A black and white photo from the groundbreaking of USU in the 70s featuring David Packard, then Presidnet Ford, F. Edward Hebert, and others holding shovels and wearing hard hats. (Image credit: USU Archive at the LRC)
 By Kelsey Stalnaker

More than 70 years ago, F. Edward Hebert, a congressman from Louisiana, and later chair of the House Armed Services Committee, began his fight for the creation of a school to help develop an experienced core of career military physicians to care for the nation’s service members and families.  

On September 21, 1972, his dream was realized when President Richard M. Nixon signed the Uniformed Services Health Professions Revitalization Act, creating the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).  Classroom doors opened in 1976 and the first class of 29 students graduated four years later.

Students in uniform stand in formation.
First-year medical students and Graduate School of Nursing students stand side by side in formation during USU’s Founder’s Day ceremony.  The event’s theme highlighted the university’s focus on interdisciplinary education.  (Image credit: SSgt. Joseph Pagan, U.S. Air Force)

In its 45 years of existence, USU has changed. Physicians aren’t the only medical professionals needed by the military branches and thus are no longer the only ones educated by the university. Three different schools have been added over time. First, the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (GSN) was founded in 1993. In its 24 years, GSN has become the institution of choice for each service branch, with the flexibility in their curriculum to focus on programs most needed in the field. The school also stands as one of the nation’s top ranking programs, using final projects from Doctor of Nursing Practice candidates to identify needs and improvements that can be made to the healthcare systems in Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) throughout the country.

2010 saw the rise of a tri-service dental college that offers dentist residents in more than 29 programs and 17 locations throughout the country a master’s degree in Oral Biology when they finish. In addition to its academic curriculum and research projects, USU’s Postgraduate Dental College has also been influenced by close ties to the other USU schools, creating unique interdisciplinary studies that coincide with medical and nursing practices in the larger military healthcare system.

The newest school, the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS), is working with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) to grant the university’s first undergraduate degrees to corpsmen and medics completing one of four programs:  medical laboratory, surgical, neurodiagnostic, and nuclear medicine techs. CAHS faculty evaluate the academic and military training portfolios of METC students to assign transferable college credits that can lead to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree conferred by the USU.

Military personnel in dress uniform carry flags in front on the stage as part of the Founders' Day ceremony
USU’s Joint Service Color Guard presented the colors during the opening moments of the University’s 45th Anniversary Founder’s Day celebration.  (Image credit: Thomas Balfour)

Furthering USU’s imprint on the military’s medical advancements, are the 16 centers, programs, and initiatives developing research and resources and providing training to benefit the nation’s service members and their families. Among the centers is DoD’s only brain tissue repository for combat blast brain injury, the nation’s institute for research and response to radiation-related events, and multiple partnerships with agencies throughout both the private and the public sector, and millions of research dollars awarded.

Today, USU’s medical school alumni make up approximately 25% of the current military physician population and the more recent programs represent a growing population of all military healthcare staff. The university currently holds 682 foreign and domestic patents, partnerships with more than 50 MTFs, and a list of alumni in leadership positions a mile long.  

Forty-five years has brought a lot of change to the university, but the intent remains the same, helping to produce the world’s most competent military medical force – spanning from researchers to doctors – and learning to care for those in harm’s way.