The Center was founded in 1999 as the Center for the Study of Medical Ethics and Humanities. From its inception, the Center’s mission has been to develop interdisciplinary educational and research programs in clinical and research ethics, the history of medicine, and the social and cultural aspects of medicine. In 2006, the Center was renamed the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, in honor of Dr. Josiah C. Trent, a noted Duke surgeon and medical historian who died of cancer at the age of 34. In his memory, his wife, Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, made generous contributions to Duke over the course of her life. Notably, through the Trent Foundation, she endowed two chaired professorships: one in the history of medicine and one in the medical humanities. Among her other donations was Dr. Trent's collection of historical medical artifacts and textbooks, given to the Medical Center Library.