In 1910 the Abraham Flexner report for improving education in American medical schools advocated close association between medical schools and universities. Adhering to these guidelines, in 1925 Vanderbilt Medical School and Hospital moved to the main west Nashville campus. The goal was to create an optimal environment for sharing medical knowledge and experience, with Hospital, Medical School, and Research facilities in one location. Since 1925 the Vanderbilt Department of Surgery has evolved in ways that extend this mission to improve patient care by focusing on education, patient care and research.
Barney Brooks, M.D. was chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1925 until 1952. At that time Vanderbilt graduated one chief resident per year, its first being Alfred Blalock, M.D. Since then, the Department has had four leaders: H. William Scott, Jr., M.D. (1952-1982), John L. Sawyers, M.D. (1982-1993), James A. O'Neill, Jr., M.D. (1995-2001), and R. Daniel Beauchamp, M.D. (2001-present). The surgical education program now graduates seven chief residents per year, who are poised to pursue further training or begin careers in either academic surgery or community practice.
The Vanderbilt Department of Surgery has grown and restructured to better serve its founding mission. In 1974-1975 it reorganized to become part of the Section of Surgical Sciences. At that time a number of surgical specialties which had been divisions within the Department of Surgery became separate departments within the Section of Surgical Sciences. Subsequently some of those departments have developed additional divisions