The Students' Health Service at the University of Minnesota was
officially organized in 1917 and opened in 1918 on the Minneapolis campus in
two fraternity houses vacated during World War I. Additional dormitory space
was also provided for the health service on the Agriculture campus.
In the fall of 1918, Spanish influenza struck the University of
Minnesota as a result of the influx of students in the Student Army Training
Corps. This occurred during the first weeks of the opening of the new health
service, taxing its personnel and facilities. 2,000 cases of influenza were
reported and twenty deaths occurred. Influenza struck again in 1919-1920.
Forty-three cases of smallpox were reported in 1920-1921 leading to a campaign
of small-pox vaccinations for students and prompted epidemiological studies
with the aid of the state Department of Health. Paratyphoid fever cases that
same year proved to result from milk contaminated by an infected employee,
leading to the use of only pasteurized milk in sealed bottles.
After the war, returning students requested that the Health Service
vacate the fraternity houses. As a result, the first floor of Pillsbury Hall
was remodeled and occupied by the Health Service on February 1, 1919.
In 1921, Harold Diehl became the director of the Students' Health
Service, replacing John Sundwall. During his first year as director, Diehl
appointed two full-time physicians, Drs. Ruth Boynton and William P. Shepard.
Their first year of service was devoted to an outbreak of scarlet fever at the
School of Agriculture, followed by influenza. Seeing the need for better
facilities on the Agricultural campus, the Old Home Building was remodeled for
an out-patient department and a new health service building was built on the
St. Paul campus in 1939.
An outbreak of smallpox in 1924-1925 in Minneapolis lead to another
effort by the Health Service to get its student population vaccinated. 8,000
students received the vaccine and smallpox vaccinations then became part of the
University's entrance requirement.
By 1925, the problem of new quarters for the rapidly growing health
service on the Minneapolis campus was becoming a very real one. It was debated
whether Jones Hall could be used for health service purposes, with the final
decision being to build a new wing of the University Hospital. Construction was
completed in 1929. Nicknamed "The Pill Box", the new building allowed for
additional health services for both students and employees of the
Besides conducting physical examinations, some of the other duties of
the Health Service included supervising sanitation of swimming pools,
inspecting and rating rooming houses, inspecting eating places on or near
campus, and offering courses in hygiene and public health.
In 1936, Dr. Ruth Boynton became the director of the Students' Health
Service, developing a comprehensive health program in preventive medicine that
included pre-employment examinations for nonacademic employees, later extending
it to academic staff. A dietitian was employed to study and assist students
with nutrition. During World War II, servicemen assigned to the University for
military training were also given medical care by the Students' Health
In 1950, a new health service building was built on the Minneapolis
campus with a wing added in 1959. Ruth Boynton retired as director in 1961 and
in 1975 the Students' Health Service was renamed Boynton Health Service.
Notes taken from Masters of Medicine: An
Historical Sketch of the College of Medical Sciences, University of
Minnesota , by J. Arthur Myers, Warren H. Green, Inc., St. Louis,
Ruth E. Boynton papers
Guy Stanton Ford papers
University of Minnesota. Comptroller papers
University of Minnesota. Office of the Dean of Students papers
Myers, J. Arthur. Masters of Medicine: An
Historical Sketch of the College of Medical Sciences, University of Minnesota,
1888-1966 . Warren H. Green, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, 1968, Chapter
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