The highly anticipated WVU William A. Neal Museum of Health Science opened to the
public this year. The museum was conceptualized by the late Dr. William A. Neal,
pediatric cardiologist, author of “Quiet Advocate: Edward J. Van Liere's Influence
on Medical Education in West Virginia” and distinguished WVU School of Medicine
The museum highlights West Virginia’s groundbreaking innovations in medicine, as well as the history of the WVU School of Medicine, which was founded in 1867. The exhibition chronologically showcases medicinal breakthroughs from the frontier days in West Virginia to WVU Medicine’s modern advancements.
Tracing the history of the School of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing and Public Health, added over the course of 150 years, exhibit goers will walk through a vast amount of history, while learning about West Virginia and Appalachia’s contributions to medicine that not only impacted the region but the rest of the world.
“I sincerely hope that it will excite on-lookers to not only recognize the already progressive and accomplished medical history of West Virginia, but amazing recognition of the state and its on-going potential,” said Susan Meyers, Neal’s sister.
Dissatisfied with the crude peg leg he was issued during the Civil War, James Hanger fashioned a better prosthetic leg for himself from barrel staves.
The museum displays health-related artifacts, rare manuscripts and other holdings from WVU Libraries and the West Virginia and Regional History Center, in addition to other items provided by faculty, alumni and friends of the University. Some features are available through touch screens making the exhibition more interactive.
“This history has rarely been researched in the past nor seen in exhibition form, so some of these stories are coming to light, for the first time, to the general public,” said Elizabeth Satterfield, program assistant for the museum. “The Neal Museum of the Health Sciences is the culmination of years of research and efforts at West Virginia University.”
“I am immensely proud and excited about the opening of the Museum,” Satterfield said. “It is especially meaningful as a tribute to Dr. Bill Neal, who was a constant supporter of and advocate for this museum.”
The idea for the museum came after Neal wrote “Quiet Advocate: Edward J. Van Liere's Influence on Medical Education in West Virginia,” a chronology of the WVU School of Medicine and a tribute to former WVU Dean of Medicine Dr. Van Liere. Neal was the first recipient of the Dr. Van Liere Award when he was a medical student. The museum includes a sculpture of Van Liere, which was sculpted by a former WVU dental student.
Neal made a remarkable impact here in West Virginia, founding the nation’s largest youth-based heart disease research initiative. He was the first medical director of WVU
Medicines Children's Hospital in 1988, according to West Virginia University Health Science News. It was after he retired that he dedicated his time, energy, and extensive research to building this museum.
“This history has rarely been researched in the past nor seen in exhibition form, so some of these stories are coming to light, for the first time, to the general public” Elizabeth Satterfield, program assistant
“The museum was his dream and history was something he loved,” said Martha Mullet, Neal’s wife. “I am excited that it turned out the way it did. I am excited that my father’s medical bag, which I’ve had for 50 years, has found a place in it.”
Neal passed away in January 2020 at 81 years old. The museum is named after him to honor his hard work, dedication, and passion for sharing with the world the contribution’s West Virginia has made to medicine.
“Billy knew every nook and cranny of this museum that he envisioned and created, and sadly was unable to see it to completion,” Meyers said. “I believe he rested in the conviction that indeed it would happen and to his specifications.”
The WVU William A. Neal Museum is located in the Robert C. Byrd Health Science Center, adjacent to the Pylon Atrium. The museum is free and open to the public.