Hospital History: How Baylor University Medical Center Became “A Hospital of Great Importance”

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At the end of the 19th century, Dallas’ population began to explode, and with the growth came more pollution and disease that spread through the dirt streets of Dallas. Meanwhile, Parkland and St. Paul’s hospitals, now closed, have opened their doors.

Even with these new hospitals doing their best to verify skills, the practice of medicine was somewhat disorganized. A Texas Medical Association audit at the time found 500 bogus physician licenses in state records. Local physician Dr. Charles Rosser led efforts to found the University of Dallas Medical Department to standardize medical education and help serve the growing region.

But when the school first opened on Commerce Street downtown in 1900, finding a facility where they could learn the trade and apply their learning in the classroom was a challenge. Parkland Hospital was open to receive students, but there was no streetcar service, which meant students had to take a long wagon ride pulled by two bay ponies. St. Paul’s Hospital objected to welcoming the students.

Rosser had not finished building the city’s medical infrastructure and began trying to convince the citizens of Dallas to build a new facility for patients and students. Although he did not receive an immediate response, he purchased a two-story, 14-room mansion in a grove of oak trees on Junius Street in East Dallas, which happened to be the home of William H. Gaston, an officer prominent Confederate and landowner in East Dallas. He named the 25-bed facility the Good Samaritan Hospital in 1903.

At the time, an office visit cost one dollar and a home visit cost $2, with 50 cents added for every mile the doctor traveled beyond the Dallas city limits.

The medical school suffered financial difficulties and later a fire, and local leaders wanted to provide stability by affiliating it with Baylor University. It took time to convince, but the University of Dallas Medical College eventually became Baylor University College of Medicine.

But the need for a larger medical facility was always there. First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor George Truett helped lead a fundraising initiative for a new facility, raising $250,000 to build the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium. Rosser’s location in East Dallas was chosen for the new hospital, which began in 1904. It would eventually provide 114 private rooms and 250 beds in six large wards, costing $400,000 to build. In 1914, a three-story clinic building was constructed for minority patients, as segregated care was a fact of the day. In the 1920s, the hospital would see 20,000 and 30,000 patients a year.

Courtesy of: Mary Allen Watkins and Baylor Scott and White Health

In 1921, the search for unity between the medical school, the hospital, and the new schools of pharmacy, dentistry, and nursing became “Baylor-in-Dallas”, and the hospital was renamed Baylor Hospital and it was renamed Baylor University Hospital in 1936.

The hospital continued to grow and expand, adding a children’s hospital in the 1920s, and the Florence Nightingale Maternity Hospital was built in 1937 next to Baylor. In 1943 Baylor University College of Medicine moved from Dallas to Houston after an offer from the MD Anderson Foundation, but the hospital remained.

In 1950, another expansion led to the seven-story, 436-bed George W. Truett Memorial Hospital on the campus of Baylor University Hospital. The campus was renamed Baylor University Medical Center.

The hospital continued to grow and add facilities, and in 1981 became a network when the Baylor Health Care System added Baylor Medical Center Ennis and Maylor Medical Center Grapevine.

The system has continued to develop over the years, breaking down the barriers of heart, lung and bone marrow transplants. The system expanded into Fort Worth by acquiring All Saints Health System in 2003, as the hospital celebrated its 100th anniversary.

In 2013, Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Healthcare joined forces, creating the most expansive nonprofit healthcare system in the state. Today, the system includes the Baylor Scott & White Health Plan, the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, the Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance, and one of the nation’s most popular digital health platforms, MyBSWHealth. The system has 51 hospitals and 1,100 access points spanning North and Central Texas, with academic medical centers in Dallas, Fort Worth and Temple.

The system followed through on Rosser’s prophetic prediction over 100 years ago to build “a hospital of great significance.” Even then, he knew his actions would be “the first step in promoting a great general hospital of the future.”

Author

Will Maddox

Will is the editor of CEO magazine and editor of D CEO Healthcare. He wrote about health care…

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