Today, the Clinical Research Centre houses administrative and academic departments of the Dalhousie Medical School. When it opened in 1924, however, this building was known as the Public Health Clinic, and was a central component of Dalhousie's growing medical program. It was built to provide clinical instruction to Medical students in treating minor illness, as well as raise their awareness of public health issues.
The building's construction and equipment were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and Carnegie Corporation, two American philanthropic organizations which have given hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable causes since they were founded in 1913 and 1911 respectively. Both were supporters of the development of North American medical schools and made possible several Dalhousie building projects in the 1920s. The Clinic was designed by Halifax architect Andrew R. Cobb, who designed it to coordinate with the Burbidge building. Opened in the summer of 1924, patients were first received in the Clinic during the fall of the same year.
The services of the Public Health Clinic were crucial to the lower income residents of Halifax. They, and the Dalhousie medical students who treated them, benefited from the numerous public health agencies that Dalhousie accommodated in the building during the first fifteen or so years of its enormous growth: the Halifax Visiting Dispensary (then the only out-patient clinic in the city); the Victorian Order of Nurses; the Massachusetts-Halifax Health Commission; venereal disease treatment clinic; dentist of the Board of Schools Commission; I.O.D.E.; Halifax County Anti-Tuberculosis Association; and the Junior League, among others. Medical, housekeeping and kitchen staff worked and lived in the building, and visiting physicians worked long hours without remuneration.
The fate of the Public Health Clinic was briefly threatened when the Massachusetts-Halifax Health Commission wrapped up its involvement in the Clinic and staff were reduced seventy-five percent. Dalhousie was struck with the burden of running the Clinic on its own with no aid from the City of Halifax or the province. This situation seemed unfair when compared to what other city governments did for their public health services. After several years of promoting the importance of the Public Health Clinic and wrangling for support, the Nova Scotia government agreed to provide $5,000 a year and the Rockefeller Foundation up to $8,800 a year, for the next five years. The Clinic would not have to be closed.
In 1948, the Victoria General Hospital opened an out-patient department; with its demand lessened, the Public Health Clinic expanded its pediatric services, serving as the out-patient department of the Children's Hospital and Grace Maternity Hospital. In the 1950s it housed a Mental Health Clinic for Children as well as the Department of Psychiatry and the Dental Clinic, among others. As campus growth allowed departments' relocation and area hospitals took over clinical services, the Public Health Clinic was converted to meet the Faculty of Medicine's growing research function. Dining room, kitchen, storage rooms and employee quarters gradually gave way to administrative offices, laboratories and seminar rooms. In 1958 the building housed offices of the Halifax Public Health Nurses, the School of Nursing, Dean of Medicine, Director of Post Graduate Medical Education, the departments of Preventive Medicine and Psychiatry, Student Health Services, and the pharmacy of the Halifax Visiting Dispensary.
The building underwent major remodeling in 1967 when the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building was built, in order to provide research labs for clinical departments in the Medical School. Thereafter, it housed the Family Medicine Centre, infertility clinic, Preventive Medicine, heart and lung unit and estrogen and cardiovascular labs. Today, clinical training of Dalhousie Medical students takes place in numerous teaching hospitals and family practice units throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Atlantic provinces, and the Clinical Research Building stands as a testament to the Dalhousie Medical School's rich history of serving the citizens of Nova Scotia.