When Samuel Bard began his medical career in the 1760s after completing his medical studies abroad, he joined the practice of his father, Dr. John Bard, a renowned physician and friend of Benjamin Franklin.
But the younger Bard had aspirations beyond routine care. While studying in Edinburgh, Scotland, he learned of plans to open the American Colonies’ first medical school, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, which enrolled its first students in 1765.
“I wish with all my heart, they were at New York that I might share amongst them, and assist in founding the first medical college in America,” he wrote to his father in 1762. “I own I feel a little jealous of the Philadelphians, and should be glad to see [a] college of New York at least upon an equality with theirs.”
Shortly after his return home, Dr. Bard began planning what would become the second medical school in America. His vision was realized when the Board of Governors of King’s College agreed to open a teaching facility in 1767. In his speech to the school’s first graduates two years later, Bard unveiled his next goal: After disseminating the Colonies’ first code of medical ethics, he called for the creation of the city’s first public hospital.
In 1771, a royal charter established the Society of the New York Hospital. As plans were developed, Dr. Bard agreed to be the hospital’s first attending physician. But a fire in 1775, when construction of the hospital was almost complete, set the project back, and the start of the Revolutionary War delayed reconstruction. As the war began, Dr. Bard moved his family to Hyde Park, New York, and Dr. Bard eventually joined them and established a practice.