History is dispensed 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.
Near the bustling inpatient admissions area, an exhibit dedicated to the Health Care Hall of Fame was unveiled on Sept. 14, 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 after starting from a concept championed by Benjamin Franklin.
The Philadelphia hospital's structure has been renovated and expanded many times since its founding in 1751, but the values of the 414-bed hospital 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.
The idea for the facility 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, 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.
A charter for the hospital was granted on May 11, 1751. No more than 20 patients could be treated at a time at the hospital's first quarters, a small rented house.
Drawings were made for a larger hospital, but only the east wing was built in 1755 because of a lack of money. The west wing opened in 1798.
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. In 1835, the hospital board purchased a 101-acre tract in the far western suburbs for a building to house the new Department for the Insane, later called the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.
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.