History – Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital
Not so long ago, before crowded highways and plentiful tourist attractions dotted the landscape, southwest Orlando was a sleepy community nestled among lakes and orange groves. The land on which Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital now sits was originally settled by Dr. Philip Phillips, who purchased an orange grove there in 1905 and built a thriving citrus business. Once considered the largest citrus producer in the world, the Dr. Phillips companies share a rich history spanning several generations.* Dr. Phillips and the charities that carry his name (The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation and Dr. Phillips, Inc.) have a rich history in Central Florida and continue to have a great impact on the lives of area residents.
Dr. Philip Phillips*
Philip Phillips, who would later be known simply as “Doc,” was born on January 27, 1874, in Memphis, Tennessee. Born to French supply merchant Henri Phillippe and his wife, Isabelle, Phillips spent much of his childhood in Lebanon, Tennessee, later attending a prestigious medical school on the East Coast. After studying at New York’s Columbia University, earning the title that would become a moniker for Central Florida citrus, Dr. Phillips gave in to his entrepreneurial spirit and made the decision to forgo the practice of medicine and move south, toward a land of new opportunity. Endowed with $5,000 from his father, the young doctor made his way to Florida where he purchased his first orange grove in Satsuma in 1894, laying the foundation for what would become his rather ambitious dream of being Central Florida’s citrus king.
An unfortunate victim of chance, Dr. Phillips lost everything when, in early 1895, Florida suffered one of the most devastating freezes in state history. Two days of below-freezing temperatures and acres of worthless trees forced the doctor to move back to his home state of Tennessee.
In the years that followed, Doc made a life for himself in Tennessee, though it is hard to say with certainty how his time there was spent. Some say that he opened a small medical practice and even became an investor in a local hardware store, all the while continuing to explore the possibilities of the fledgling citrus industry. In fact, Phillips spent much of the late 1890s buying up small groves during brief visits to Central Florida; a prudent move that would, eventually, bear fruit.
The sand still in his shoes — and success on his mind — in 1902, Dr. Phillips packed his bags and once again made his way south; this time with his sights set on Cuba and the promise of great economic potential. Political unrest made him rethink his final destination, though, and the “Doc” found himself once again in Florida, this time settling in Kissimmee where he established a small cattle business that he intended to grow alongside the orange groves.
Not long after his arrival, however, Phillips found himself pulled from the herds, drawn back to citrus and the maintenance of his many small groves. In 1905, Doc moved his family from Kissimmee to Orlando, purchasing an orange grove on land that is now home to Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, after being assured that the area was “frost free.”
Dr. Phillips was known for the many innovations the company incorporated in the packaging and processing of orange juice. As the family citrus business grew, housing was established for workers in the Dr. Phillips community and a post office was built to provide services. From delivering turkeys to the families of the field hands on Christmas morning, to establishing a hospital for the sole purpose of caring for local black families, to planning an entire community around the needs of his employees, Doc Phillips was a pioneer in far more than just Central Florida citrus. He was a visionary in the realm of human need and a man worthy of the epitaph: “Under his hand, the wilderness bore fruit.”
Miles away from the lush Dr. Phillips groves, a small hospital was born on what was to become Orange Avenue near downtown Orlando. In 1918, the 50-bed Orange General Hospital was the vision of a small group of physicians. Over the decades, as Orlando grew, so too did the hospital; growing and evolving to meet the needs of the changing community — and changing its name a few times over the years as well. In 1946, the name was changed to Orange Memorial Hospital in honor of World War II veterans. In 1977, the hospital merged with nearby Holiday Hospital to form Orlando Regional Medical Center. Further expansion during the 1980s, as well as the addition of community hospitals, led the system to change its name to Orlando Regional Healthcare, and in 2008 the system rebranded once again, becoming Orlando Health. As one of Florida’s largest private, not-for-profit hospital systems, the doctors, nurses and staff continue to serve Central Florida, and beyond, with the highest level of care and leading-edge technology.
A Thriving Community Hospital
In 1981, more than 75 years after Dr. Phillips acquired his first orange grove on the shores of Sand Lake, Orlando Regional Healthcare entered into an agreement to acquire the land from Dr. Phillips, Inc. John Hillenmeyer, who would later become president and CEO of Orlando Regional Healthcare, led the design and construction of the new hospital first named Sand Lake Hospital and served as its first vice president and executive director. Opening in 1985 to provide care for the growing resident and tourist populations in southwest Orange County, Sand Lake Hospital was the first facility built by Orlando Health outside of its downtown Orlando footprint.
In 2007, Sand Lake Hospital was renamed Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in honor of the land’s founder and his foundation, which had been a committed supporter of Orlando Health. With the new name came a major expansion project, needed to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for healthcare services in the growing area. In 2008, a new five-story, state-of-the-art patient tower opened, adding 330,000 square feet of space and 140 patient beds, doubling the hospital’s capacity.
In early 2020, Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital unveiled a new $20 million expansion on the hospital’s fifth floor, which was designed to provide additional space to enhance the quality of care for the growing community. The new space, which had been a shell space created after the 2008 renovation, added 42,000 square feet to the hospital and includes a comfortable family lounge and 48 state-of-the-art private rooms that feature spectacular lakefront and International Drive views. Additionally, the floor boasts a Joint Camp classroom for educating patients and their loved ones before and after surgery, and a separate rehabilitation gym to support recovery. The expansion increased the total number of hospital beds from 237 to 285.
Understanding the importance of providing care close for those who need it, the 46-acre Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips campus also includes an Orlando Health Cancer Institute location offering oncology treatment and services; outpatient rehabilitation services to include physical, speech, occupational and hand therapy; and a Comprehensive Wound Care Center that offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The campus also is home to the Cynthia C. and William E. Perry Pavilion, which opened in 2004, and provides comfortable and accessible overnight lodging for the family members of patients coming from outside the Orlando area.
Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital has received numerous patient-care quality and safety rating recognitions over the years, earned from national organizations including The Joint Commission, IBM Watson Health, U.S. News & World Report, The Leapfrog Group and Modern Healthcare.
*Excerpt from “Legacies”, Dr. Phillips Charities newsletter, Volume I, Fall 2006.
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