Bellaire - Meyerland - West University | Nov. 2020

Breaking Ocially founded in 1945, the Texas Medical Center began to form nearly a century ago with the help of some

The Texas Legislature commits $500,000 to a cancer research hospital under The University of Texas. The M.D. Anderson Foundation matches the investment. June 1941

Dec. 1943

Houston voters agree to cede 134 acres of city park land to the M.D. Anderson Foundation for $400,000 for the creation of a medical center.

ground June 1925

key philanthropists, Houston voters and local visionaries. SOURCE: TEXAS MEDICAL CENTERCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

Nov. 1945

June 1936

Baylor University agrees to relocate its medical college to Houston from Dallas after the M.D. Anderson Foundation gives $1 million for a building and $1 million for research. May 1943

The Hermann Hospital opens, funded by philanthropist George H. Hermann, who hoped it would rival Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland.

Monroe D. Anderson establishes a foundation for establishing hospitals and the promotion of health, science and education. After his death, he left it a $19 million endowment.

The TMC is ocially chartered as a nonprot corporation, overseeing the distribution of land toward nonprot medical and research uses.


For 75 years, Houston has grownmedical, economic ‘powerhouse’


pave the way for the medical center’s future success. “Michael DeBakey brought a lot of inuence,” Boutwell said. “He was not only a great surgeon, but he had been decorated in World War II. He also had a lot of respect in Washing- ton and could go there and walk the walls and could generate funding and support.” In addition, DeBakey recruited another renowned surgeon, Dr. Den- ton Cooley, in 1951. The duo collaborated on a number of innovations in surgery, including a new method of removing aortic aneu- rysms, the weak spots that can some- times develop along artery walls. But individually, alongside their teams, the two were pioneers. DeBakey performed the rst suc- cessful carotid endarterectomy— removing blockages in an artery—in 1953, and in 1958 he performed the rst successful patch-graft angioplasty. Cooley, who founded the Texas Heart Institute in 1962, went on to set multiple medical milestones, includ- ing one of the rst heart transplants in the U.S. in 1967 and the world’s rst total articial heart implant in 1969. Dr. Lee Clark was yet another leader, who put the medical center on the map for cancer care beginning in 1946 when he was named MD Anderson’s rst full-time director and surgeon in chief. During Clark’s career, the cancer center opened in 1954, and he oversaw threemajor expansions to the complex during his 34-year tenure.

hospitals did not have the capacity for multiple iron lungs, Wooten said. Opening the Southwestern Polio- myelitis Respiratory Center—the rst respiratory center in the country and what would be later known as the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research—at Jeerson Davis Hospi- tal was intended to remedy this with a focus on trained personnel and a room full of iron lungs, Wooten said. Work on polio at the respiratory center and at the newly opened Texas Children’s Hospital, along with the Baylor College of Medicine being selected in 1961 as a site for trials of what would become the go-to polio vaccine, helped cement the TMC’s reputation. “By doing that, it underscored the mounting prestige of the Texas Med- ical Center,” Wooten said. Building and leaving legacies The Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center saw success in treating polio patients, but the direc- tor of the center, Dr. William Spencer, was a real driving force, Wooten said. The TMC showed the world its prominence with the quality of the physicians it was employing, said Bry- ant Boutwell, longtime professor and former administrator for UTHealth. “What happened was that Texas Medical Center became like a magnet for some of the greatest physicians in the country,” Boutwell said. Recruiting world-renowned heart surgeon Michael DeBakey in 1947 was one such example that helped

So when polio hit, it hit Texas, Houston and Harris County hard, Wooten said. Ever since, the medical center has confronted challenges with pioneer- ingmedical practitioners and an eye to future collaboration and innovation. Rising to the challenge During the late 1940s to the early 1950s, a dangerous form of the dis- ease, bulbar polio, which attacks nerve centers that control swallowing and talking and could lead to suo- cation, had been on the rise, Wooten said. “Most Americans thought polio was the most frightening thing, save for the atomic bomb, at the time because it aected children, the idea of Amer- ica’s future,” said Wooten, the author of polio-focused book “The Polio Years in Texas: Battling a Terrifying Unknown.”Though the tank mechan- ical respirator, also known as the iron lung, had been developed years prior to provide breathing support, most

Thousands of infections from the viral disease were sweeping across the United States, inundating doctors’ oces across the Greater Houston area. The best and brightest physicians were working on treatments while researchers searched for a vaccine. Many patients were asymptomatic, but some suered from a wide vari- ety of symptoms: fever, sore throat, headache and fatigue. As eorts to combat the disease grew, public fears grew because of the disease’s uncertain future and its devastating eects on vulnerable populations. This is not 2020, and the disease is not COVID-19. This was the 1940s and 1950s, and it was the polio epidemic, the rst public health crisis to test the budding Texas Medical Center, which was ocially chartered 75 years ago as of Nov. 1. The polio epidemic, in fact, contin- ued to penetrate the United States in greater numbers than had ever before been seen, said Dr. Heather Wooten, an adjunct assistant professor for the Institute for the Medical Humanities, located at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Texas saw fewer than 1,000 polio cases in 1945, but by 1950, those num- bers had increased to nearly 2,800 and then to almost 4,000 at its peak in 1952, according to medical statistics from 1945-58 kept by the nonprot March of Dimes. In Harris County in 1952, there were 700 cases reported.

Texas Medical Center

stats to know

106,000+ total employees

8 million 180,000+ 750,000 patient visits per year

annual surgeries

ER visits per year



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