New Exhibit Features Med Student Life in 1930

We are excited to announce the installation of a new exhibit on Level 3 of the Medical Center Library. “A Medical Student’s Life at Duke in 1930” explores the lives of Duke’s first medical students, 30 first-year and 18 third-year medical students who were admitted to the new medical school in the fall of 1930. 
According to the 1930-1931 School of Medicine Bulletin, the estimated yearly cost of attendance for students was between $295 and $315. Each year the school offered four terms of eleven weeks, commencing October 1st with one-week vacations in December, March, and June and a one-month vacation in September. Students were required to complete three terms each year, receiving instruction in medicine, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and one of the following specialties: dermatology and syphilis; neurology and psychiatry; urology; orthopedics and physiotherapy; or ophthalmology, otolaryngology and dentistry. Students lived, studied, ate, and slept in the new hospital. 
The exhibit displays the recollections of former students and staff about student life in 1930. Not only was the city of Durham a much smaller place in 1930, so was Duke Hospital. The new hospital had five floors that held patient wards, operating rooms, a pharmacy, student and staff dormitories, classrooms, a library, and a private faculty and staff dining room. To learn more about student’s poker games, dormitories, classes, extracurricular activities, and other general shenanigans, stop by the library and see the full exhibit.
This blog post was contributed by Archives Intern and exhibit curator Caroline Waller.

The 18 third-year medical students admitted in 1930. Duke Hospital in 1931.  Students and Wilburt Cornell Davison, first dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, on rounds in Duke Hospital, perhaps in second floor classroom.


My father Theodore R.Keith, MD attended Duke Med in the early 1930s after graduating from UNC in 1929. But he eventually graduated from Temple Med instead of Duke.
When I was a boy he told me he transfered to Temple because Duke didn't have a hospital at the time he entered because the med school was too new. I believed his story. But after he died in 1989 my cousin who was his peer told me another version, that dad got thrown out of Duke for having a big party !
I also know dad was famous for playing poker in college. He didn't stop in med school either. His Temple year book comment was that after paying his way thru med school by playing poker they expected him to furnish his medical office the same way.
In the late 1970s dad read in the Winston Salem newspaper that an old classmate was retiring from Bowman Gray School of Medicine. Dad hadn't seen or talked to his classmates in over 40 years. My brother took my dad to his old classmate's home. When the professor saw my dad he said, " My God. It's Ted Keith. Are you still playing poker ? "
My dad's brother Marion Y.Keith MD was on the beginning faculty at Duke Med. He trained under Dr. Sidbury at The Babies Hospital in Wrightsville Beach. Marion later had a pediatric practice in Greensboro.
My bother Ted went to Duke undergrad but got his MD from Bowman Gray. He practiced cardiology like my dad in Winston Salem and died 3 years ago.
I followed my dad to UNC but got my JD from law school at Wake Forest in 1970.
I would appreciate any information in your archives y
on my father Theodore and his brother Marion and their connection to the early days of Duke Medical school. I was a US history major at Carolina and find family history just as fascinating.
And if Covid ever goes away I'd like to come and see the exhibit on the med school's early days. You may even have my dad's picture in a yearbook somewhere. I live in Winston Salem so it's an easy drive for me to come to Durham.
I enjoyed reading what you have available on the internet. I hope you have even more information you can share on my family in your archives.
Tom Keith

Rebecca Williams's picture

Hi Tom, Thanks for your interest! Please feel free to send me an email for further discussion at

Also you might enjoy looking through our digital repository MedSpace ( for online historical photographs and publications.

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