Our Story

The history of pediatric care and research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia ranges from an era when a child's growth and development were of negligible scientific interest, to the modern era which regards children the nation's most precious resource.

In medicine and in life, there is a saying that goes "children are 'not little adults.'"

However, in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century, sick or injured children were treated as though they were just tiny adults. After birth, there was no real place for children in hospitals generally, nor interest in them medically.

All of this was changed by the founding in 1855 of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

At the time, most childhood illnesses were handled at home. There was an appallingly high mortality rate for infants and children admitted to adult hospitals because of cross infection, diarrhea, and even neglect. This sad state-of-affairs deeply disturbed a Pennsylvania Hospital-trained physician named Dr. Francis West Lewis, who would set about to change things.

After visiting the newly established Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London, Dr. Lewis resolved to form a similar institution for Philadelphia's poor children. He joined with Drs. Thomas Hewson Bache and R.A.F. Penrose to open a small hospital and dispensary in the city.

There were 12 beds in the first hospital, and during the first full year of operation they admitted for 67 children and had 821 visits to the dispensary.

Their idea — a new medical discipline specifically for caring for children — would blossom quickly. Fourteen years later, a children's hospital was formed in Boston and by the 1870's there were children's hospitals extending from Albany in the east to San Francisco in the west. Pediatrics was well on its way.

The hotbed for innovation, and the model for other children's hospitals, would continue to be in Philadelphia at Children's Hospital. It is here that the various specialties that now make up pediatrics evolved.

From the outset, some of the nation's outstanding pioneers in pediatric research and clinical care have been part of Children's Hospital. The succession of great names who have passed through the Hospital includes: Sir William Osler, Joseph Stokes, Jr., C. Everett Koop, Gertrude and Werner Henle, Stanley Plotkin, William Rashkind, Audrey Evans and others.

Early on, leaders at Children's Hospital recognized the importance and synergy of a vibrant environment for research and education. The pediatricians at Children's Hospital comprise the pediatric teaching department at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, consistently ranked among the best in the nation. Researchers here have discovered genes, pioneered new treatments, and developed vaccines.

These ingredients for excellence have long been bolstered by the support of a dedicated community.

As a charitable, non-profit hospital, Children's Hospital has depended on philanthropy to advance its mission. And throughout its history, generous families, individuals, companies and foundations have made significant contributions the Hospital.

In its first year, Children's Hospital collected just over $4,000 in donations. When the Hospital moved to its Bainbridge Street location in Center City Philadelphia in 1916, and funding was urgently needed, the community contributed $500,000 in 10 days! Such vivid illustrations of munificence carry on to this day. Last fiscal year, the Hospital raised approximately $50 million in gifts and pledges.

This support has helped make Children's Hospital a beacon of hope — where research leads to cures, where families find the best care for their children.

During the last century, Children's Hospital has been the place for innovations and firsts to the field of pediatric medicine. It has also mentored some of the nation's finest talents in pediatrics and continues to be the premier training ground for future pediatric leaders.

Children's Hospital has built what is now is the largest pediatric healthcare network in the U.S., with nearly 50 sites that treat children throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Today, the Hospital has 430 beds and sees more than 1 million outpatient and inpatient visits.

The story of pediatrics continues to be written at Children's Hospital. The work here will ensure that children now and in the future, and from all across the globe, will be able to experience the gift of childhood.

CHOP Timeline of Milestones

  • 1855 — The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the nation's first hospital dedicated exclusively to children, is founded by Dr. Francis W. Lewis with Drs. T. Hewson Bache and R.A.F. Penrose on Blight (now Watts) Street. The 12-bed Hospital treats 63 patients in its first year.
  • 1866 — CHOP moves to its second location at 22nd Street between Walnut and Locust. Beds increase to 35.
  • 1895 — Ingersoll Training School for Nurses is established; the birthplace of pediatric nursing in America, it operates until 1945.
  • 1914 — Department for the Prevention of Disease established, the first such program in the nation.
  • 1916 — Hospital relocates to its third building at 18th and Bainbridge Streets; complex expands over the coming decades.
  • 1929 — Joseph Stokes Jr., M.D., becomes physicianin-chief; he is credited with transforming CHOP into a world leader in teaching and research.
  • 1936 — Whooping cough vaccine developed, the first in a series of vaccines pioneered at CHOP that have worldwide impact on childhood disease.
  • 1938 — Development of the first closed incubator for newborns.
  • 1940 — Vaccines for influenza and mumps developed by husband-and-wife team, Drs. Werner and Gertrude Henle, at CHOP.
  • 1946 — C. Everett Koop, M.D., D.Sci., joins medical staff and by 1948 becomes surgeon-in-chief.
  • 1962 — First neonatal intensive care unit in the nation established; first pediatric intensive care unit follows in 1967.
  • 1963 — Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D. develops rubella vaccine; clinical trials conducted at CHOP.
  • 1965 — Balloon catheter developed by William Rashkind, M.D., the "father of interventional cardiology," allowing first non-surgical treatment of certain heart defects.
  • 1974 — Hospital moves to its current location at 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard. Forty-four volunteer ambulances transport patients.
  • 1986 — CHOP is designated eastern Pennsylvania's first Level 1 pediatric trauma center.
  • 1989 — Richard D. Wood Pediatric Ambulatory Care Center opens, reflecting increased focus on outpatient care.
  • 1991 — CHOP is designated a Human Genome Center by the National Institutes of Health and awarded a major federal grant for mapping of chromosome 22 (completed in 1999). Beverly S. Emanuel, Ph.D., chief of Division of Human Genetics and Molecular Biology, is recognized worldwide as a leader in this research.
  • 1994 — Cardiac Intensive Care Unit opens, one of few such dedicated in the nation. CHOP also opens its first Specialty Care Center in Voorhees, New Jersey, the first step in creating the nation's most extensive pediatric healthcare system.
  • 1995 — Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Pediatric Research Center opens on Main Campus, housing CHOP Research Institute. Center supports hundreds of basic research investigations. Also, Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment is established, offering new hope for mothers carrying fetuses with life-threatening birth defects. It is one of only a few comprehensive programs worldwide.
  • 1998 — Cardiac Center is established, integrating Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Cardiothoracic Anesthesia and Cardiac Nursing. Also, Children's Seashore House, the nation's first pediatric rehabilitation hospital, joins CHOP, caring for children who require ongoing rehabilitative therapy.
  • 2001 — The Fred and Suzanne Biesecker Center for Pediatric Liver Disease opens and becomes a world leader in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic pediatric liver diseases.
  • 2004 — CHOP Department of Nursing is awarded Magnet status, the nursing profession's highest national recognition. Less than 3 percent of hospitals nationwide have received this honor.
  • 2005 — CHOP celebrates its 150th Anniversary
  • 2006 — Vaccine for rotavirus developed at CHOP by Paul Offit, M.D., H. Fred Clark, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Stanley A. Plotkin, M.D. CHOP launches the Center for Applied Genomics, an ambitious program to identify the genes responsible for common childhood diseases.
  • 2008 — The Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit opens, becoming the world's first birth facility exclusively for mothers carrying babies with known congenital defects.
  • 2010 — The Ruth and Tristram Colket, Jr. Translational Research Building opens for elite research teams devoted to translating laboratory findings to treatments.
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