Decades ago, a promise was made and a dream began: Camden, New Jersey would one day have a four-year medical school. In 2012 that dream became a reality with the opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
Since Cooper Hospital first opened in 1887, Cooper has been involved in medical education. In the 1970s, Cooper began a 40-year quest to become a four-year medical school, a journey that officially began in 1975 when then Governor Brendan Byrne signed legislation to bring a new medical school to southern New Jersey. For the next three decades, Cooper served as the primary clinical campus for third- and fourth-year medical students from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), later named the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
But Cooper wanted a four year medical school in Camden. It sought Rowan University as its academic partner, a school with a long history and commitment to southern New Jersey and one that was poised for strategic growth on the national stage. On June 25, 2008, then Governor Jon S. Corzine officially ended Cooper’s relationship with UMDNJ and recognized the new Cooper-Rowan partnership. One year later, through an executive order, Rowan University and The Cooper Health System officially established Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU).
The groundbreaking ceremony for the medical school’s $139 million, six-story facility took place in October 2010, at the corner of South Broadway and Benson Street in Camden. In June 2011, just one month after construction crews raised the final steel girder on the 200,000-square-foot building. A little more than one year later, on July 21, 2012, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University held its historic grand opening event.
"This is a huge milestone in the life of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and a proud day for South Jersey. We’re on the right path to bring a new kind of medical school to New Jersey. Rowan University is committed to pioneering efforts to solve the vexing challenges of ensuring access to high-quality education and health care for New Jersey’s citizens."
—Rowan University President Ali Houshmand, PhD
Grand Opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, July 21, 2012
Less than one month later, CMSRU enrolled its Charter Class. These pioneering students embraced the core values of CMSRU and showed their commitment to improving the world around them and becoming physician leaders who can make change happen. In 2016, the Charter Class celebrated its first residency Match Day, with 100 percent of graduating students being offered residency positions. In May 2016, many of the same dignitaries who gathered for the school’s groundbreaking and grand opening events gathered once again – this time to celebrate CMSRU’s Inaugural Commencement event.
In June 2016, CMSRU received full accreditation for the maximum period of five years from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the nation’s accrediting body for MD-granting medical schools.
More than 300 students are now enrolled at CMSRU. Class size will continue to grow at a slow and even pace each year until enrollment reaches 408 students.
Settled in the 1600s, Camden has a long, prominent history in the State of New Jersey. Founded by the Quakers, Camden was once a city where early European settlers and native Lenape Indian’s lived in harmony. When the City of Philadelphia was established across the river, Camden became a popular city for trade and commerce by way of ferry via the Cooper River. Several of these ferry’s were owned and operated by members of the Cooper family and would continue as such for over one hundred years.
In the late 1800s, William Cooper sold his portion of the city, now known as Lanning Square, the home of Cooper Heath System and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. This area would soon become populated by families rather than businessmen due to its location and affordable pricing. The row homes built then are still present today.
Today, Camden is a city on the upswing, thanks in large part to investment from its educational and medical institutions, including Cooper University Health Care, Rutgers University, Rowan University, and Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. Camden also boasts a vibrant waterfront, with attractions like Adventure Aquarium, Susquehanna Bank Center, Battleship USS New Jersey, and the Camden Riversharks bringing thousands of visitors into the city each year. In 2014, the Philadelphia 76ers announced plans to build its practice facility in Camden, and Subaru announced that it was moving its national headquarters to the city. Businesses, large and small, are opening throughout the city, helping Camden become a great place to live, work and play.
While Camden continues to improve, it is still a city where basic needs such as housing, food, health care, safety and education go unmet for many residents. By choosing to be a “mission-driven” school, CMSRU has pledged to help close this gap. It does this by admitting students who care deeply about improving the world around them and who have the courage to make change happen. By working, living, studying, and volunteering here,
CMSRU students, faculty and staff are helping make Camden better. Camden is our classroom... Camden is our home