Long in the forefront of pediatric research and development of medical instruction, Children's Hospital has now become witness to the forces of social change, much to the staff's delight.
Pioneering new therepeutic techniques and advancing the state of pediatric medicine are just two of the areas in which Children's can lay claim to many first that have become standard in medical technology and technique.
And a few weeks ago, Children's experienced another "first" in its 110-year history. At the Jan. 4, 1980, meeting of the 45-member board of directors at Children's Hospital, Orianna McKinnon was elected the first woman president of the board. The directors are responsible for the governing of the hospital.
Mrs. McKinnon has had a long association with Children's Hospital. She and her husband, the executive vice president of law and accounting and public affairs for Southern Railway Systems, moved here from North Carolina in 1954.Medical emergencies involving her three sons introduced Mrs. MfKinnon to the hospital.
"I quickly became convinced it was a great place," she said, remembering those early visits.
Her background in community service has prepared Mrs. McKinnon well for the role of coordinator, one of the chief duties of the board president. In the past, she has been treasurer of the Junior League of Washington and has also served as a board member of that organization. She later served as president of the St. Alban's Mothers' Club.
Mrs. McKinnon became associated with Children's Hospital in 1966 when she was asked to join the Board of Lady Visitors. Visitors are selected from the community and participate in a program of in-hospital work, fund-raising and community support for the hospital and its programs.
Four years later Mrs. McKinnon was elected president of the Board of Lady Visitors and held that position until 1973. As president, she served as an exofficio member of the board of directors of the hospital. The term is normally two years, but she was asked to serve a second term.
"However, I knew that in a year I was going to be very busy as president of the St. Alban's Mothers' Club," she explained, "which is why I served only one year of the second term."
In 1975 she was elected to both the board of directors and the 150-member corporate board of Children's. During her team, she was active on the Goals and Objectives Committee, the Public Relations Committee and the Nominating Committee.
Asked for a New Year's prediction about the years ahead for Children's Hospital National Medical Center, Mrs. McKinnon referred to the recently revised goals and objectives of the hospital. "Of course, we will continue our commitments to excellent pediatric health care, to education and research," she said. "Beyond that, we also have a commitment to the community which we hope to further in the coming years. We should never lose sight of what we mean to the community and what the community means to us.I also feel that we should examine who our publics are -- both within the hospital and outside -- and make sure that we communicate with each other in the best ways possible."
And, of course, those revised goals and objectives of Children's Hospital still include Children's policy, in effect since its founding in 1870, of never turning away a child, regardless of the parent's ability to pay for any necessary medical treatment. That's one policy that has never needed revising. It's the hospital's primary obligation to the nation and to Our Town until the charter expires -- in the year 2885.
The position of president of the board of directors carries no salary, of course. "Without volunteers," hospital director Dr. Robert Parrott said, "we would not have such a fine hospital today." Mrs. McKinnon is one of those tireless volunteers who has done much to shape the character of Children's. She will have an even greater impact as president of the board.
"I took on the presidency as a full-time position, with the hope that I can save some blocks of time for my other interests," Mrs. McKinnon said. Those other interest include art, both as a beginning artist and seasoned appreciator, and tennis.
Another interest is her family, which includes three sons. She hopes to save a large "block of time" to visit her second son in Denmark. He's at Duke University, but will take courses in Denmark later this year.
While Mrs. Mckinnon is the first woman to be elected president of the hospital, she does not see this as the prime issue. "Getting the job done is the prime issue," she said. "There's a lot to be done and I hope I am the person -- not the man or the woman -- who can do it."
"The nicest thing," Mrs. McKinnon said, "is that I have found I enjoy being of service to the community."