In the early 1960s, a group of leaders from eastern North Carolina proposed that a medical school be established at what was then East Carolina College. They were concerned about the deficit of modern medical care available in the region, and about who would replace the generation of physicians then in practice. Over the next decade these and other men and women, under the determined leadership of the late Dr. Leo W. Jenkins, chancellor of the college, made the case for their idea to anyone who would listen.
In time, East Carolina University was authorized to establish a health affairs division as a foundation for a medical program, and then a one-year medical school whose participants completed their medical education at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Finally in 1974, the General Assembly of North Carolina appropriated the funds to establish a four-year medical school at East Carolina University.
The legislature set forth a three-fold mission for the ECU School of Medicine: to increase the supply of primary care physicians to serve the state, to improve health status of citizens in eastern North Carolina, and to enhance the access of minority and disadvantaged students to a medical education.
Since 1977, when the first class of 28 students enrolled in the four-year School of Medicine, the institution has grown dramatically in its teaching, research and patient care roles. Today, in its partnership with Vidant Health and regional physicians, the school is the educational centerpiece of one of North Carolina's largest and most productive academic medical centers. In 1999, it was renamed the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, in recognition of the continuous support of the Brody family.