North Carolina Memorial Hospital and UNC School of Medicine mark 60th anniversary

On Sept. 2, 1952, North Carolina Memorial Hospital admitted its first patients. The hospital was built as part of the state’s Good Health Plan, which also expanded the UNC School of Medicine to a 4-year program.

North Carolina Memorial Hospital and UNC School of Medicine mark 60th anniversary click to enlarge A nighttime photo of North Carolina Memorial Hospital taken in the 1950s.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

Monday, Sept. 17, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Sixty years ago this month, a brand new red brick hospital building on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill admitted its first patients.

The opening of North Carolina Memorial Hospital, so named by the North Carolina General Assembly to honor the state’s citizens who gave their lives in military service, went hand-in-hand with the expansion of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine from a 2-year Certificate of Medical Education program to a 4-year Medical Degree (M.D.) program.

Both developments were components of the Good Health Plan, an ambitious package of legislation aimed at increasing the number of doctors and hospitals in the state. The General Assembly approved the Good Health Plan shortly after World War II, in the wake of revelations that more young men from North Carolina were rejected for military service for poor health than those from any other state. At the time, North Carolina also ranked near the top in infant and childbirth deaths and near the bottom in the number of doctors and hospital beds per capita.

“In the late 1940s, a group of visionaries in North Carolina committed themselves to improving the health of the state’s citizens,” said Dr. William L. Roper, dean of the UNC School of Medicine, Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and CEO of the UNC Health Care System.

“Over the last 60 years, what began as a single red brick hospital building has grown into a truly statewide University of North Carolina Health Care System, one whose benefits are felt in all 100 counties of the state, from the mountains to the coast,” Roper said.

“As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we fully recommit the entire UNC Health Care enterprise to the mission assigned to North Carolina Memorial Hospital when it opened in 1952:  To be ‘Operated for and by the People of North Carolina,’ ” Roper said.

UNC Health Care includes UNC Hospitals, Rex Healthcare, the UNC School of Medicine, UNC Physicians & Associates, Triangle Physician Network, Chatham Hospital in Siler City and Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville. In addition, the UNC Hospitals-Hillsborough Campus is currently under construction.

Today UNC Health Care is recognized as a national leader in both patient care and medical education. In 2012 the UNC School of Medicine was ranked 2nd in primary care, 6th in rural medicine and 21st in research by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, UNC Hospitals has been ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” in multiple specialties by U.S. News & World Report every year in a row for the last 19 years.

But UNC Health Care’s national reputation is built on the service that we provide within the borders of North Carolina. In 2011, the medical care provided by UNC Health Care statewide included 65,361 inpatient encounters and more than 1 million outpatient encounters. Medical education included 685 medical students (86 percent of whom are North Carolina residents) and 930 resident physicians. And, more than 3,300 doctors who earned their M.D. at the UNC School of Medicine are currently practicing within North Carolina.

The economic contribution of UNC Health Care to North Carolina is also quite significant. In 2011 UNC Health Care provided more than 15,000 jobs in 70 North Carolina counties and paid $1.2 billion in salaries. In addition, UNC Health Care provided $333 million in uncompensated care and provided $106 million in funding support for the University of North Carolina, primarily to the UNC School of Medicine. UNC Health Care also continues its commitment to uniformed service members, retirees and their families. In the past year, UNC Hospitals has seen 16,584 military patients (inpatient and outpatient) for a total of 67,030 visits.

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