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100 Years of Orlando Health: Inspiring a New Century

November 05, 2018

What does it mean to turn 100 years old? For an organization like Orlando Health, it means celebrating a history of being a pioneer in medicine, growing to meet community needs and adopting new technologies. But it means more than just remembering the past—it means thinking ahead to the next 100 years.

Remembering the PastSurgery Suite

On Nov. 5, 1918, the doors opened to what was then known as Orange General Hospital. It was at the tail end of World War I, and the growing town of Orlando needed a modern healthcare facility. Three physicians — doctors John McEwan, Gaston Edwards and C.D. Christ — along with Orlando Mayor James Giles contributed funds, eventually raising $100,000 to buy the land, and build and equip the hospital. With no gas or electricity available, the first baby born at Orange General was delivered by candlelight. The first diapers were hung outside on the railing to dry. Even though the hospital initially lacked some amenities, the staff was dedicated to providing the best care they could for the community.

The hospital’s first nursing class graduated in 1921. Within two years, the hospital had earned such a reputation that young women were eager to come to Orlando to train as nurses. A $5,000 gift by Rose Simmons in 1941 enabled the Board of Governors to build its first dedicated nursing education facility—and the first in the state of Florida. The one-story building fronted South Orange Avenue.

Over time, Orange General expanded, and in 1946, it was renamed Orange Memorial Hospital in honor of soldiers who fought in World War II. Through acquisitions and expansions, the hospital continued to evolve. In 1997, the hospital merged with Holiday Hospital to become Orlando Regional Medical Center.

As the hospital grew, its amenities increased—with gas, electricity, running water and, yes, even air conditioning—and it developed a reputation for innovation. The hospital used new technology to treat patients with cancer and kidney disease. The first successful open heart surgery in Central Florida was performed at the hospital. The hospital developed specialties such as its Alexander Center for Neonatology at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, one of the largest delivery hospitals in the country, and the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center, known for its leading-edge technologies and personalized cancer care.

Vision for the Future

In 2008, the hospital system became Orlando Health. As in the past, this was more than a name change, but a recognition that healthcare goes beyond the doors of a hospital building and beyond caring for a specific illness. The name Orlando Health reflects the organization’s involvement in the Central Florida community and beyond for prevention, education and support, from birth to end of life.

What Hasn’t Changed

In the past 100 years, many aspects of Orlando Health have changed: the buildings, the name, the locations, the technology, the training, the protocols and, of course, the people. But throughout the century, several core aspects of what inspired those original pioneers who created Orange General Hospital remain a strong foundation for the organization, enabling it to continue innovating in the present and future.

Standard of care. Orlando Health’s commitment to providing high-quality care to the Central Florida community and beyond remains our steadfast mission and vision. Our efforts have earned numerous awards and accolades, including:

  • Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) is recognized as a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News & World Report and rated among the nation’s top 1 percent in nine essential clinical areas.Opening of Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women and Children
  • For nine consecutive years, Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children has been designated as a Best Children’s Hospital by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center is one of only four cancer centers in Florida, and the only one in Central Florida, to be recognized as a state-designated Cancer Center of Excellence.
  • The organization has more Beacon Awards for excellence in bedside care than any other healthcare system in Florida.
  • The patient-safety advocates at The Leapfrog Group have recognized several facilities with Top Hospital designations, an honor bestowed on fewer than six percent of the nation’s 4,500 hospitals. Among the elite group are: Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children as a Top Children’s Hospital, Orlando Health ORMC as a Top Teaching Hospital and Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital as a Top General Hospital.

While these awards are indeed gratifying, our greatest satisfaction comes from being a critical healthcare partner to the communities we serve.                                                                             

Responsiveness. In addition to excellent healthcare, patients want transparency. They want access to services and programs. Through our strong community-based programs, Orlando Health is dedicated to providing services where healthcare consumers live, work and play. Our expansion of locations continues with the opening of six freestanding emergency rooms and additional physician offices across the region.

Legacy. Whether physician, team member or administrator, all members of the Orlando Health community understand the legacy that we share. From the doctors who saw the need to open the first hospital in Orlando, to those willing to operate by candlelight, to those committed to providing the services the community needed, the legacy has been one of caring, dedication and innovation.

As we move into the next century with new pioneers and visionaries, Orlando Health remains committed to providing high-quality, compassionate care that’s easy and convenient to access. Every day, team members demonstrate that commitment at our award-winning hospitals and dozens of physician offices. Staying true to our mission “To improve the health and quality of life of the individuals and communities we serve,” Orlando Health is poised to continue its legacy for the next 100 years.

Celebrating 100 Years of Caring

Since first opening our doors on November 5, 1918, as Orange General Hospital, Orlando Health has continued to grow and advance together with the Central Florida community that we are proud to be a part of. Now, as we celebrate our centennial anniversary, we are honored to look to our rich and storied past as we begin the next 100 years — Inspiring a New Century.

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