Maryland Medical Achievements

As many of us rolled up our sleeves this spring for a Covid vaccination, it seems appropriate to feature a syringe in this blog post.  Figure 1 illustrates two mid-19th-century glass syringes found in Baltimore at the Albemarle Row House site (18BC50). 

Additionally, April was Maryland Archeology Month and this year’s very appropriate theme was “Medicine and Healing in Maryland”.  So this month’s blog will follow in these same footsteps and focus on a few of the many medical advancements made in Maryland.  The state has a number of prestigious hospitals and research facilities, including the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Johns Hopkins Hospital opened in 1889, followed in 1893 by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, thus paving the way for numerous medical advancements.  Johns Hopkins was the first medical facility to develop renal dialysis (1913) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as the first to use rubber gloves during surgery (Johns Hopkins 2021). It is also the birthplace of many medical specialties, including neurosurgery, urology, endocrinology and pediatrics.  In 1890, it led the way in progressive medicine, becoming the first major medical school in the United States to admit women on an equal basis with men.  

Figure 2.  Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge or permission.

Perhaps the state’s best-known (and controversial) medical advancement was the creation of the first immortal cell line—the “HeLa” cells. Removed without permission from cancer patient Henrietta Lacks in 1951 by physicians at Johns Hopkins, medical researchers all over the world have used these cells—aiding in the development of the polio vaccine, in cloning experiments, in understanding how viruses work and much more (Skloot 2010).    

The first public medical school in the nation, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, also bears the distinction of being the first medical school to institute a residency training program (Cordell 1903). In a residency program, newly minted medical doctors spend several years gaining hands-on experience working with established physicians in a hospital or clinic setting. During this period, the residents decide on what medical specialty they would like to pursue and focus their training in this area.

The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) was formed in 1996 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  Under the leadership of co-founder Robert Gallo, the Institute has made great strides in AIDS research.   

The National Institutes of Health had its beginning with the Marine Hospital Service, a late 18th-century institution established to provide health care for merchant seaman, and later began monitoring ships arriving in the U.S. for infectious diseases (NIH 2019). The NIH has made great strides in many areas of medicine, including cancer research and the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

This blog has listed a small sample of medical advancements from Maryland’s medical institutions.  The state has a long history of medical achievements and will doubtless continue to lead the way in the twenty-first century.


Eugene Fauntleroy Cordell. 1903. Medical Annals of Maryland 1799-1899.   The Medical and Chirurgical Faculty for the State of Maryland, Baltimore.

Institute of Human Virology. 2021. Institute of Human Virology Research. Website accessed 6-8-021 at

Johns Hopkins. 2021. About Johns Hopkins Medicine History Timeline.  Website accessed 6-8-021 at .

National Institutes of Health.  2019.  The Roots of NIH.  National Institutes of Health. Website accessed 6-8-021 at

Rebecca Skloot.  2010. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Random House, New York.

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