History is dispensed along with medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital.
The nation's first hospital is decorated with portraits of hospital leaders from the 1800s, such as Benjamin Rush, M.D., and board president Samuel Coates. "Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple," a famous painting by native Pennsylvanian and hospital benefactor Benjamin West hangs at the entrance to the hospital's Gallery Pavilion.
Near the bustling area of inpatient admissions, an exhibit dedicated to the Health Care Hall of Fame was unveiled in September 1988.
The exhibit, sponsored by MODERN HEALTHCARE, takes its place among the many plaques, paintings, architectural artifacts and display cases that tell how the hospital flourished from a concept championed by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia printer and American statesman.
The hospital's structure has been renovated and expanded many times since its founding in 1751, but its values remain the same as in Franklin's time.
The structure, called the Pine Building, was designed by a member of the hospital's first board of managers and has been in continuous use since 1755.
Not much is discarded at Pennsylvania Hospital, where board reports are saved with the same reverence as the cornerstone dedication written by Franklin.
The idea for Pennsylvania Hospital originated with Thomas Bond, M.D., who was concerned about healthcare for the city's poor and mentally ill. Bond had seen hospitals abroad and wanted to introduce them to the colonies, where well-to-do residents were treated by physicians in their homes, but others received little medical treatment.
To raise money, Bond knew he needed community support. He sought out Franklin, already a respected statesman in the colonies.
Franklin persuaded the Pennsylvania Assembly to provide 2,000 pounds, an amount that would be matched by Philadelphia's citizens. The assembly gave its approval, thus establishing a precedent for matching funds in hospital finance.
A charter for the hospital was granted on May 11, 1751, 25 years before the American Revolution. No more than 20 patients could be treated at a time at the hospital's first quarters, a small rented house. Franklin and Bond chose the story of the Good Samaritan for the hospital's official seal, which reads: "Take care of him and I will repay thee."
Drawings were made for a larger hospital, but only the east wing was built in 1755 because of a lack of money. In 1798, the west wing opened.
By 1770, the hospital was staffed for more than 100 patients by six physicians who rotated shifts in teams of two. The hospital also employed three nurses, a matron, a steward, several cell keepers for the mentally insane and a laundress.
Finally, in 1804, the "Centre House" connecting the hospital's east and west wings was constructed using the original drawings from the 1750s. In 1807, the hospital opened the northern and southern dispensaries, the first outpatient service.
The hospital was crowded, with stays routinely lasting weeks or months. The biggest problem was an influx of mentally ill patients. When the west wing opened, insane patients were moved there from bottom floor cells of the east wing, but the hospital soon found it could fill the entire hospital with mentally ill patients.
In 1835, the hospital board purchased a 101-acre tract in the far western suburbs for a building to house the mentally ill. The new Department for the Insane, later called the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, initially housed 160 patients but expanded to 250 before the end of the decade.
Benjamin Rush, M.D., the nation's first psychiatrist and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was among the new hospital's chief physicians.
As early as the 1750s, clinical instruction had begun at the hospital. Apprentices began "walking the wards" with their preceptors. Medical school courses began in 1765. Displayed in one hallway of today's hospital are the names of all of the residents who trained there, including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D.
To teach others about medicine, Philip Syng Physick, M.D., known as the "father of American surgery," gave lectures in the nation's first surgical amphitheater beginning in 1804. Medical students had to buy season passes to watch the surgery.
Pennsylvania Hospital played an important role during the nation's wars. During the Revolutionary War, the hospital struggled. Four of the hospital's Quaker board members were exiled to Virginia. In those times, Quakers were either neutral or passive loyalists and were viewed by revolutionaries as spies and informers.
Between September 1777 and June 1778, the hospital was occupied by the British, who never reimbursed it for the supplies used by Red Coat soldiers.
During World War I, the hospital treated nearly 48,000 patients at a base hospital unit in France.
Less than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Pennsylvania Hospital was asked to assemble a unit to serve in World War II. The hospital's first base unit opened in New Caledonia. In 1943, the hospital unit was transferred to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's command in the Pacific.