A place for his­tory and health­care

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By David May

Penn­syl­va­nia Hos­pi­tal—known as the na­tion’s first hos­pi­tal—was built more than two decades be­fore the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion.

Health­care isn’t the only thing pro­vided at Penn­syl­va­nia Hos­pi­tal in Philadel­phia. His­tory is also avail­able in large doses through­out the cam­pus.

Known as the na­tion’s first hos­pi­tal, it was built more than two decades be­fore the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. It still in­cor­po­rates the orig­i­nal build­ings in daily op­er­a­tions, al­though fa­cil­i­ties have been ex­panded, ren­o­vated and mod­ern­ized many times over since the hos­pi­tal opened. The hos­pi­tal is home to the Health Care Hall of Fame.

Among the many art trea­sures adorn­ing the hos­pi­tal’s halls is “Christ Healing the Sick in the Tem­ple,” a fa­mous paint­ing by Ben­jamin West, along with por­traits of hos­pi­tal and health­care pi­o­neers of the 18th-cen­tury era

and be­yond. They in­clude Dr. Ben­jamin Rush, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist lead­ing up to the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion whose sig­na­ture is on the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, and Dr. Philip Syng Physick, known as the fa­ther of Amer­i­can surgery.

Hold­ing a prom­i­nent place on the hos­pi­tal’s main floor is the gallery of the Health Care Hall of Fame, spon­sored by Mod­ern Health­care, on dis­play since the first hon­orees were in­ducted in 1988.

The idea for Penn­syl­va­nia Hos­pi­tal orig­i­nated with Dr. Thomas Bond, a Philadel­phia na­tive, who was con­cerned about the avail­abil­ity of qual­ity care for the poor and men­tally ill. Dur­ing trav­els to Europe for his med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, he was im­pressed by hos­pi­tals in Paris and other cities. He sought to in­tro­duce the con­cept to the Colonies.

But Bond knew that ac­quir­ing the money to build the hos­pi­tal would be a chal­lenge. He re­al­ized he would need broad sup­port from the com­mu­nity. So he sought the aid of Ben­jamin Franklin, al­ready a re­spected states­man in the Colonies and a man with a deep in­ter­est in ad­vanc­ing the sci­ences.

Franklin per­suaded the Penn­syl­va­nia Assem­bly to pro­vide the ini­tial amount of 2,000 pounds if he could ob­tain match­ing funds from com­mu­nity res­i­dents. The money was quickly raised and a char­ter for the hos­pi­tal was granted in May 1751. Orig­i­nally lo­cated in a rented house, the hos­pi­tal con­structed its own build­ing in 1755 and be­gan ad­mit­ting pa­tients in 1756. Bond and Ben­jamin chose the bi­b­li­cal story of the Good Sa­mar­i­tan for the hos­pi­tal’s of­fi­cial seal, which read: “Take care of him and I will re­pay thee.”

The hos­pi­tal has been in con­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tion for 266 years, and since 1997 has been part of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia Health Sys­tem.

His­toric Penn­syl­va­nia Hos­pi­tal re­ceived its char­ter in 1751, but the ear­li­est avail­able photo of the hos­pi­tal’s Pine Build­ing, left, dates to April 1861. Be­low is the build­ing and cam­pus as it ap­pears to­day.

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