Our Storied History
Our history of training Navy medical personnel begins 1902 as the Navy Medical School (NMS).
The photograph shows students and instructors at the precursor of the Hospital Corps School and Medical Education and Training Command (METC). Known as the “Navy School of Instruction,” this institution opened in March 1902 in Norfolk, VA, and went far to mold the early Hospital Corpsmen. Of note is the School’s principal instructor Pharmacist Edward May, USN (top row, seventh from right). May fathered, counseled, and taught the first nine classes of the School (over 350 students).
In April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called for a declaration of war against Germany, and American isolationism headed for temporary retirement. The United States was now committed to its first European conflict. In order to maintain the health of a rapidly growing wartime Navy and care for its sick and injured, the Navy Medical Department had to recruit and train hundreds of physicians, dentists, and nurses, as well as thousands of hospital corpsmen. The Navy Medical School provided the training to meet the needs of a country at war.
Navy medical personnel served with Marine Corps units on the Western Front; aboard every man-of-war, troop transport, and supply ship; with submarine divisions, aviation groups; and with the United States Railway Battery in France. In 1917, the Navy deployed 38 physicians, 5 dentists, and 348 hospital corpsmen to France; nurses went as well.
The inter-war period also saw swift developments in military and civil aviation, which solved many problems concerning human endurance and the adverse effects of accelerative forces, anoxia, fatigue, and psychological stress. To deal with aviation related issues, the U.S. Naval Medical School instituted a course in aviation medicine.
From June 1939 to June 1941, the number of active duty Navy physicians went from 841 to 1,957; the Dental Corps increased from 255 to 511; the Nurse Corps increased its rolls from 439 to 524; and the Hospital Corps increased in size from 4,467 to 10,547.
The Navy Medical School kept this name until 1972 when it was renamed Navy Medical Training Institute (NMTI) but this name was short-lived when in 1973 it was renamed Health Sciences Education and Training Command (HSETC). The school carried on for the next 22 years with the HSETC moniker. A name change occurred on Sept. 30, 1995 and the school became Naval School of Health Sciences, Bethesda (NSHS) for the next seven years. On Aug. 13, 2002 the school changed names again this time gaining Naval Medical and Education Training Command (NMETC).
It was only four years the school would have the NMETC initials when it changed its name again to Navy Medicine Manpower Personnel Training and Education Command (NMMPT&E) on 1 Oct. 2006. This would not be the last name change. January 2012, the school was renamed as Navy Medicine Professional Development Center (NMPDC). The command is a tenant of Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) and is located in building one, known as The Tower and dedicated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt August 31, 1942.
FDR's concept sketch of the National Naval Medical Center.
(Courtesy of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Library and Archives)