History of Vanderbilt and Military Medicine

Vanderbilt and Military Medicine: A History

Since the early 1900s Vanderbilt has had a relationship with the US Army and military medicine. Starting with the inception of Vanderbilt’s Student Army Training Corps (SATC) in 1917 through present day with Army Medicine’s new Strategic Medical Asset Readiness Training (SMART) and Army Medicine Military-Civilian Trauma Team Training (AMCT3) programs.

WWI and the National Defense Act of 1916

James H. Kirkland, Vanderbilt’s Chancellor from 1893 to 1937, was an enthusiastic proponent of bringing military training to campus as the First World War loomed ever closer. He believed that military training would be beneficial to the discipline and citizenship of Vanderbilt’s students, as well as provide a way for the university to support the war effort. With near universal support of the faculty, he petitioned the Army for a unit of the Student Army Training Corps, or SATC in 1917, and while the negotiations with the government took place, Vanderbilt Medical Students organized a special medical unit which left in 1918 for service at several camps across the country.  Vanderbilt sent medical doctors to operate Vanderbilt Hospital Unit “S” along with enlisted men and nurses recruited from the Nashville area, based in Nevers, France in the Bourogne region. In December 1918, Vanderbilt received notification that a unit of the Coast Artillery Corps of ROTC, the organization that replaced the SATC was coming to its campus. For the first year of its existence, ROTC would be compulsory for all males except seniors, later becoming a voluntary activity in 1920.

You do not need to be reminded that out of the medical faculty there was organized our splendid Vanderbilt Unit “S,” which so successfully conducted Camp Hospital 28 at Nevers. … Every one of these officers was proud to be a Vanderbilt man, and proud to be a member of the Medical Corps—almost as proud as if he were a marine. When the wounded men were brought into the operating room without their uniforms, one couldn’t tell whether they were Americans, French or English. We had over 17,000 shattered bones to mend, over 3,500 arms and legs to amputate, and 20 times that many to save.”

—Lt. Col. W.D. Haggard, February 1919 address to the Vanderbilt Club of Nashville


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Alumni Hall opened in 1925 as Vanderbilt's first Collegiate Gothic style building, it was the university's first student center and the hub of student activity for nearly fifty years. The building memorializes Vanderbilt alumni, former students, and faculty who lost their lives in WWI. The names of the 44 Vanderbilt casualties from WWI are carved in stone above the two fireplace mantles, located at either end of the room.

After World War I and throughout the interwar years, the Vanderbilt ROTC program had robust participation in the School of Medicine and steadily generated officers for the Army’s hospitals.


During WWII Vanderbilt School of Medicine continued to produce doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals for the war effort. Many of these Vanderbilt doctors and other medical professionals would later go on to serve overseas in the locally renowned “Fighting 300th” General Hospital Unit during the Second World War. This unit was deployed to Tunisia and then to Naples, Italy to care for those wounded in combat. 


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