Edward A. Doisy Department of
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Department History
  • SLU History
A Tradition of Excellence

Image of Edward A. Doisy The Edward A. Doisy Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology was founded in 1924 by Dr. Edward Doisy. Dr. Doisy's legacy to the department is a tradition of dedication and excellence in science. In 1929, Dr. Doisy was the first to isolate and chemically characterize a steroid sex hormone, opening up the entire field of steroid hormones for chemical and medical investigation. In 1943, Dr. Doisy was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on determining the chemical nature of vitamin K, an essential component in blood coagulation. Dr. Doisy reassigned much of the income derived from his research to the medical school, which annually provides millions of dollars to our research and teaching infrastructure.

Following Dr. Doisy's retirement in 1965, Dr. Robert Olson, a distinguished physician and nutritionist, became chairman of the department. During his nearly two decades as chairman, Dr. Olson nurtured expansion of research within the department, and successfully campaigned for the integration of nutritional science into clinical medicine. Upon Dr. Olson's retirement in 1984, Dr. William Sly, a physician and molecular geneticist, was recruited as chairman. Well known for his work in the area of lysosomal cell biology and storage diseases, his research has expanded to include carbonic anhydrases and regulation of iron storage in health and disease. Dr. Sly's many contributions to the study of inborn errors of metabolism have received international recognition, and resulted in numerous awards, including election to the National Academy of Sciences.

In January 2010, Enrico Di Cera, M.D., became chairman of the department. A comprehensive history of the department was featured in the July/August 2013 of Missouri Medicine.

History of Saint Louis University

SLU Archway The history of Saint Louis University may be traced to the founding of St. Louis Academy in 1818, three years before Missouri became a state. The academy was renamed St. Louis College in 1820 and two years later Saint Louis University received the first university charter west of the Mississippi River. In the same year the organization of a Graduate School was undertaken. The first degree of Master of Arts was conferred in 1834 and the first Ph.D. degree in 1880. The present School of Medicine was established in 1903 when the university purchased the Marion Sims-Beaumont College of Medicine.

Saint Louis University is located in midtown St. Louis in the center of an urban area of more than two and one half million people. The university enrolls 11,250 day and evening students, including 450 from foreign countries. Registration in the Graduate School numbers 2000. University full-time faculty number over 1200.

Schwitalla Hall Saint Louis University School of Medicine is one of the eleven schools which comprise the university. It was established in 1836 as the Medical Department of the university and had the distinction, in 1839, of awarding the first M.D. degree granted west of the Mississippi River. Its first faculty during a turbulent pioneer period included physicians prominent in St. Louis and throughout "the West." Of national importance were William Beaumont, whose pioneering studies of the human digestive system opened a new world of research, and Daniel Brainerd, who later founded Rush Medical College (then part of the University of Chicago). Other St. Louis physicians who taught at the Medical School included Bernard G. Farrar, sometimes called "the father of the medical profession in St. Louis"; Louis C. Boisliniere, first coroner of St. Louis; Moses Linton, originator of the Saint Louis Medical Journal, the first medical magazine published by any college in the United States; and Elsworth Smith, first Health Commissioner of St. Louis.

The Know-Nothing movement that surged through the United States in the 1840's and 1850's led, in 1854, to the separation of the university's Medical Department from the university. Years later, during the presidency of Father William Banks Rogers (1900 to 1908), plans were initiated for the integration of a new medical school into the university. In 1903, by approval of the trustees, the Marion Sims-Beaumont College of Medicine was incorporated into the university. Marion Sims-Beaumont College was a medical school owned and operated by a group of St. Louis's finer physicians. The college's decision to merge with the university was reinforced by the recommendations of the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association, which insisted on university affiliations for all schools of medicine. Assured of financial support from St. Louis civic leader Festus J. Wade, President Rogers successfully secured the needed funds for the purchase of Marion Sims-Beaumont College.

Saint Louis Arch With the addition of a medical school, students at Saint Louis University again enjoyed a wider opportunity for professional education. A new group of scientifically trained faculty joined the university's faculty, balancing the more linguistically and philosophically oriented Jesuits. The most significant statistic dramatizing the effect of the new medical school on the university came at its first post-merger graduation exercise in 1904: 16 graduates received B.A. degrees, while 93 received M.D.'s.

Today Saint Louis University School of Medicine has an enrollment of over 600 medical students, directs the training of about 485 medical residents and fellows, and has 80 pre-doctoral graduate students in the basic biomedical sciences. There are 580 full-time faculty members, assisted by 900 part-time and volunteer faculty member physicians practicing in the area who are members of one or more of the hospital staffs within or affiliated with the Health Sciences Center.