Beacon of Hope: Founding Years
Designing a Biomedical Community
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Founding Years 1944-1953
Growth Years 1953-1969
Years of Change and Renewal 1969-1993
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The hospital concept that unfolded as substructure construction proceeded during 1949 envisioned a self-contained medical community of clinicians, laboratory scientists, patients, and support staff, all focused on conquering chronic disease. Under the guidance of Dr. Masur, the Research Facilities Planning Committee designed provisions for patient care and research operations far more elaborate than at a typical teaching hospital. To offset the longer stays required of research patients, special amenity services such as communal dining and recreation, as well as facilities for physical and occupational therapy, were included. The building was to be fully air-conditioned and wired for bedside television, then seen as available within five years.21

The double-corridor design of the main building, or “headworks,” allowed patients billeted in south-facing rooms to be brought into a central nursing area for treatment, and it also enabled clinicians to conduct diagnostic and other research services in north-facing laboratory modules across the corridor. The six protruding wings of the building were reserved for nonclinical laboratories, allowing clinicians to mingle with bench scientists and share emergent technologies, such as the radiation therapeutics housed in Wing C north. Support functions were to be located in satellite buildings, connected to the hospital by tunnels. Animal handling facilities, a power station and incinerator, shops and storehouses, as well as on-site housing for 300 nurses and 300 interns and trainees, were also projected.22

Initially, the hospital relied upon Washington-area physicians and the six area medical schools for patient referrals. To maintain harmonious relations with local doctors, Masur and Dyer established a “closed staff” system whereby Clinical Center physicians would not practice for pay in the Washington area, and interns would generally not be accepted from area medical schools.23 In other aspects, interaction with outside practitioners was encouraged. Area specialists were invited to serve as consultants, and intramural investigators were largely recruited outside the Northeast, to ensure a national distribution. The resulting influx of leading clinicians and scientists in 1949 began a cycle of dynamic growth in clinical science.

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