"With no endowment and but little extraneous aid, the Hospital has gone on in its career of usefullness, until it has accomplished results which appear almost incredible to those familiar with its small beginnings."
This excerpt from a history of Children's Hosiptal prepared in 1876 is as true today as it was a century ago. Children's Hospital National Medical Center has been "a catalyst for change," marked by purposeful growth for the hospital's primary goal -- improved child health.
Dr. Samuel Clagett Busey, head of the Department of Diseases of Infants at the Columbia Hospital for Women in 1870, became convinced of "the propriety of an attempt to establish a hospital for these (children) patients." Through his work, Children's Hospital was incorporated "for 20 years" on Dec. 5, 1870, for the "gratuitous medical and surgical treatment of indigent children without distinction of race, sex, or creed."
By 1879, Children's Hospital had outgrown its 12-bed beginnings. That year a new 67-bed facility was opened at 13th and W streets NW. Eight years later, medical education began at Children's. In 1968, the hospital became affiliated with George Washington University's College of Medicine.
Because of the sucess of Children's Hospital, the board of directors decided in 1884 to amend the hospital's charter and incorporate it for 1,000 years. the amended bylaws included these objectives: (1) The medical and surgical treatment of sick children; (2) Instruction in the diseases of children; (3) Instruction of young women in the duties of nursing.
The hospital completed its first major addition to its physical plant in 1890, increasing the number of beds to 102. The same year, a 12-crib infant ward was opened.
The practice of allowing parents to remain overnight with their child was initiated in 1910. A new wing provided adjoining sleeping space for mother and child, an arrangement very reassuring to sick children. Today, "rooming in" is standard procedure at the hospital, and virtually every bed has parent sleeping accomodations nearby.
Another innovation was the establishment of areas for supervised play. According to the first recreation supervisor at Children's "in these many varied and enchanting distractions, pains and aches are forgotten." Today, the recreation supervisor is a professional "child life worker," trained in child health and development, as well as in play therapy.
The Roaring Twenties began with a bang for Children's Hospital with the opening of a dental clinic and the construction of a new central wing. The decade ended with the establishment of the Social Service Department.
World War II brought both an increase in the patient population and in the number of volunteers to the hospital. Meanwhile, the draft seriously reduced the number of attending physicians at Children's. Those staff members spared wartime duty offered hours of additional service without compensation, and senior medical students from GW and Georgetown universities were placed in the wards for four-month tours under the supervision of the resident physician.
During this time, Washington experienced "nervous tension, even hysteria" as the white ghost, polio, struck down unprecedented numbers of youngsters. Children's Hospital treated about 90 percent of the polio victims in Washington, Maryland and Virginia during this period. The hospital also served as a regional distribution center for gamma globulin, used for immunization.
The Research Foundation of Children's Hospital was established in 1947 to conduct investigations into major child health problems. The establishment has been independently funded since its inception, and has carried out pioneering research in many child health areas.
The evolution of specialties and subspecialties has been a dominant feature of pediatrics during the last quarter century. During the late 1940s, Children's had only one specialist at the hospital. Today there are more than two dozen doctors who focus on specific health problems afflicting children.
In 1952, a new main building was dedicated, and the following year the Hearing Clinic was founded. During the next 25 years, Children's faced a constant struggle to provide hospital space for the number of admissions the facility attracted.
Finally, in 1968, the decision was made to rebuild and relocate Children's Hospital. The new facility, at 111 Michigan Ave. NW was dedicated by President Carter on March 6, 1977.
Throughout its history, Children's Hospital has maintained its original purpose -- to provide health care servics to children. District Liners are asked each year at this time to contribute toward the continuation of this great work. The hospital still has 905 years of charter life before it. Let's keep it going.