在成立初期，美国国立卫生研究院只是一间卫生学实验室，目的是为公众健康服务，它的第一个成就是总负责人Joseph J.Kinyoun观察到的霍乱弧菌。后来实验室搬迁到华盛顿特区，主要检验水和空气中的污染物质，同时，总负责人还负责为MHS的官员讲授细菌学。最终在1901年，此实验室被法律认可，得到了国会的拨款。在1930年，正式更名为“the National Institutes of Health(NIH)”。
二战后，PHS的领导人请求国会通过了“1944年公共健康法案(the 1944 Public Health Act)”，确立了战后美国在世界医学发展中的雏形。之后，美国开始加大投资力度，1947年至1966年成为了NIH的黄金成长期。
As of December 2006, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the United States has 27 research institutes and research centers and 1 dean's office, with a wide range of research fields, and the main research purposes are medicine and behavior.
The Institute has been supporting the research work of different university medical schools, hospitals and research institutions through various funding methods. In order to cultivate talents, NIH will conduct professional training for them to promote the exchange of medical information.
In its early days, the NIH was a laboratory of hygiene intended to serve the public health. Its first achievement was the observation of Vibrio cholerae by its director general, Joseph J. Quinn. The laboratory was later moved to Washington, D.C., where it tested water and air for contaminants, and the general director was also responsible for teaching bacteriology to MHS officials. Finally, in 1901, the laboratory was recognized by law and appropriated by Congress. In 1930, it was officially renamed "The National Institutes of Health(NIH)".
After World War II, PHS leaders asked Congress to pass "The 1944 Public Health Act," which established the embryonic form of postwar American medical development in the world. After that, the United States began to invest more heavily, and the period from 1947 to 1966 became the golden growth period of NIH.
Up to now, NIH has played an important role in the U.S. government's health research. It is also the most important medical and behavioral research and funding institution in the United States.
NIH also has the National Library of Medicine. Every month, a paper published by the world's famous medical journals is published in the Medical Index. Therefore, the Medical Index is also the most famous medical catalog database in the world.