Beacon of Hope: Growth Years
Growth Years 1953-1969
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Founding Years 1944-1953
Growth Years 1953-1969
Years of Change and Renewal 1969-1993
About the Author

The very best definition I have ever found for a hospital is the old Quaker expression, “bettering house.” It is a simple, honest term, which sums up the whole reason for being of all our health professions as they work together on the hospital team.

Jack Masur, speech to Washington State Hospital Association, Spokane,
October 19, 1955


s Dr. James Shannon remembered it, starting up the Clinical Center took “a very rough couple of years.”43 There was no established culture of medical practice supporting clinical research at Bethesda, no public funding commitment for basic science breakthroughs or for training the next generation of clinicians and scientists, and no clear paths to the next level of biomedical knowledge. The initial barriers were political. President Dwight D. Eisenhower took office in January 1953, determined to scale back federal health spending. His administration’s budget for the PHS fiscal year 1954 was $219 million, a reduction of $51 million from the previous administration’s projection.44 The Clinical Center’s incomplete professional staff complement of 245 scientists and clinicians was frozen, and the April 1 opening was postponed for budgetary reasons.45 When Oveta Culp Hobby, the new Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, visited the building in April, she asked NIH Director William H. Sebrell whether the facility could be kept closed as an economy measure. Sebrell assured her that the political costs would be prohibitive, and the administration proceeded with plans to activate the first 150 beds on July 1.46 Dedication ceremonies marking the opening of the first 26-bed nursing unit were held the following day in sweltering, 100-degree heat. In her remarks, Secretary Hobby invoked the promise of “cures as yet unthought of” and praised Congress for its nonpartisan willingness to fund medical research. “Scientific truth knows no politics,” she averred, and dedicated the Clinical Center to “the open mind of research.”47

Visiting Officials of the Clinical Center

Oveta Culp Hobby, soon to be designated Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, visiting the Clinical Center building on April 6, 1953. With her are (l. to r.) CC Director John A. Trautman, Surgeon General Scheele, and NIH Director Sebrell.
(Courtesy of Parklawn Library, Public Health Service.)
First Patient of the Clinical Center

In July 1953, Charles Meredith, a 67-year-old farmer, was admitted as the first patient. Under the care of Dr. Roy Hertz (rear), he underwent hormone therapy.
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