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In April 1913, a group of visionary and courageous nurses, led by May Forster Smith, erected four donated tents to found the Dallas Baby Camp. The first in the southwest, the camp was formed when infectious disease was killing area children at an alarming rate of up to 15 each day. Treated as little adults, the specialty of pediatrics had yet to be formed.
Nurse Smith and her colleagues from the Dallas Graduate Nurses Association dreamt of one day having a great hospital just for children, and 100 years later, the Baby Camp has become Children’s Medical Center, the fifth largest pediatric healthcare provider in the country, with a team of more than 6,000 physicians, nurses, employees and volunteers.
“Over the past century, our mission has been to make life better for all children,” said Christopher J. Durovich, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. “When I think about our beginnings as a baby camp and consider what we have become, I am in awe of the enterprising and courageous group of nurses, led by Miss May Smith, who had the foresight and resolve to found Children’s. They knew even then that the children of our community needed dedicated and unique resources. Their pioneering, innovative spirit continues on through all of our people today.”
Today, Children’s Medical Center receives nearly 700,000 patient visits annually at its two full-service hospital campuses in Dallas and Plano, multiple specialty clinics, and MyChildren’s locations that provide primary care to children across the Metroplex.
Children’s Medical Center serves children from Texas and around the world and is the only one in North Texas, to be ranked by U.S. News & World Report in all 10 specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology, and urology. Thousands of pediatricians have trained at Children’s, and Children’s is a leader in complex care, intensive care, trauma care, and pediatric heart, kidney, liver and bone marrow transplants.
Durovich said, “It is truly overwhelming to consider the lives we’ve touched. For the last century, we have impacted millions – 5 million children to be exact. From our humble start in four borrowed tents, today we annually serve 200,000 unique children and their families. And each and every child from that very first day has been at the center of all of our knowledge, innovation and compassion.”
In addition to providing the most complex procedures, Children’s has also developed nationally recognized disease management programs that target childhood obesity, food allergies, eating disorders and chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.
Advancing research is another priority for the future. In 2011, Children’s partnered with UT Southwestern Medical Center to create the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern. Funded by Children’s with the support of the community, the institute will house 150 world-class scientists and physicians pursuing discoveries to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer, birth defects and metabolic diseases.
“I wonder what nurse Smith would think today. The buildings, the technologies and the techniques may have changed since 1913, but the aspiration and the mission – to make life better for children – live on. What hasn’t changed is the fact that each day, we relentlessly pursue, discover and apply new knowledge for each child we serve, because they deserve nothing less,” said Durovich.
More information about Children’s history and details about the Centennial celebration throughout the year, are available at www.childrens.com/100years. The website also includes an interactive timeline of Children’s history and videos highlighting Children’s past and present day.
In 1913, Children’s Medical Center is founded when Nurse May Forster Smith (far right) and a group of volunteer nurses established the Dallas Baby Camp with four donated tents to deal with childhood dehydration and other infection diseases.
Founded in 1913, Children’s Medical Center is now the fifth-largest pediatric healthcare provider in the country, receiving nearly 700,000 patient visits annually, with a team of more than 6,000 physicians, employees and volunteers.