About Department of Medicine

Main Content

Our History

The Department of Medicine began in 1955 when the University of Mississippi Medical Center moved from its parent campus in Oxford to the state capitol, Jackson. Dr. Robert Snavely, a widely respected hepatologist, served as professor and as the department's first chairman. He was joined by five other faculty members, which constituted the full-time staff.

Department of Medicine staff in 1955Snavely's service came at a time of great social upheaval and hardships. In fact, funds were so limited during his tenure, he often had to feed and house faculty recruits at his home. Despite these obstacles, he was able to lay a foundation for emphasizing patient-based clinical education, and research and development.

Subsequent to Snavley's service, three other chairmen have led the department. Under the leadership of Dr. Harper Hellems (1965-90), the department enjoyed tremendous growth and established most of its 13 divisions. Dr. John B. O'Connell (1991-96) ushered in a period of dynamic expansion of facilities and faculty, while increasing NIH funding and international reputation. Under the leadership of Dr. Richard deShazo (1998-present), approximately 80 new faculty members have been recruited to the department, and the medicine-pediatrics, geriatrics, and interventional cardiology programs have been initiated.

The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) pass-rate has been sustained at over 91% while research and clinical programs have greatly expanded. The department has been named Best Clinical Department by our medical students for 10 out of the last 11 years.

Dr. Shirley Schlessinger stepped into the role as interim in July 2010. In her short tenure as chair, she experienced success in recruiting and adding new faculty members to the department. Her goals focused on meeting community needs through our clinical mission arm. Under her leadership, our education program continued to expand. She also outlined a plan to increase our research funding through the development of the Office of Research and Scholarship.