Robert Barnes died a wealthy man -- and a visionary. Barnes had come to the boomtown St. Louis in 1830 as a penniless orphan. He worked his way from store clerk to bank president. He lent a young immigrant Adolphus Busch money to start a brewery.
Barnes married into a prominent local family, but his heart was broken when the couple's two children died in infancy. Barnes died in 1892, two years after his wife. With no heirs, he left a bequest of $850,000 to build "a modern general hospital for sick and injured persons, without distinction of creed..."
Barnes had named several of the city's most astute businessmen as his trustees, and placed the proposed hospital under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, a denomination known for its wise use of donations to aid the poor.
The Jewish Hospital of St. Louis had been a vital force in caring for the community and furthering medical science since 1902.
Although the hospital was built with funds raised by the Jewish community in St. Louis, the hospital's board of directors, comprised of the city's Jewish leaders, pledged that the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis would "afford medical and surgical care and nursing to sick or disabled persons of any creed or nationality." Jewish Hospital was the institution the wave of new immigrants turned to for medical care.
This dedication to the entire St. Louis community resulted in an almost- immediate expansion to the hospital, then located on Delmar Boulevard. In addition to a larger facility, Jewish Hospital brought a number of medical innovations to St. Louis. Dr. Maurice Frankenthal was the first surgeon in St. Louis to use rubber gloves while operating. The hospital also opened a dispensary downtown -- analogous to today's outpatient centers.
Jewish Hospital established a Training School for Nurses, with its first graduating class in 1905. It went on to educate more than 4,000 nurses, and its legacy lives on today in the Barnes-Jewish College of Nursing.
By 1912, through investments, the endowment had increased to more than $2 million. The trustees bought property near Forest Park and hired the renowned architect Theodore Link- best known for his design of St. Louis Union Station -- to design the hospital building.
Before ground was ever broken, Barnes Hospital entered into a contract to be the teaching hospital for the Washington University School of Medicine, ensuring that the hospital would be staffed by Washington University faculty and would serve as a home for medical education, research and leading-edge medical care. The affiliation between Washington University and Barnes Hospital was "vital to fulfill the three principal functions of an ideal hospital -- care of the sick, the adequate training of medical men of the future and the advancement of medical knowledge," said Methodist Bishop Eugene Hendrix. The affiliation influenced Link to add laboratories, exam rooms and operating rooms to the hospital's design.
Barnes Hospital opened Dec. 7, 1914, with 250 beds and 26 patients.
From the hospital's first birth (a baby girl born on Dec. 9) and first surgery (an appendectomy performed by surgeon-in-chief Dr. Fred Murphy, assisted Dr. Ernest Sach, the first full-time professor of neurosurgery in the United States) excellence in patient care and innovative treatment have marked the hospital's history.
Barnes Hospital dealt with the deadly Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. With more than 700 patients admitted during the peak of the outbreak, Barnes had a death rate of less than four percent, remarkable for the Spanish flu.
The hospital board bought property on Kingshighway, just two blocks from Barnes Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital, to build a facility that would meet the ever-increasing need for expansion.
When it opened in 1927, the new hospital was hailed for its elegant design and functional innovations, winning the Modern Hospital of the Year award from the American Hospital Association. Its notable features included an audible nurse call system with speakers in each patient room, open-air balconies for treating patients with tuberculosis and state-of-the-art operating rooms.
Staff members from Barnes Hospital, St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University school of Medicine formed a medical hospital that served in France during World War I. While in France, Dr. Vilray P. Blair was helping to develop a new surgical discipline: plastic surgery.
In 1919, Dr. Evarts A. Graham became surgeon-in-chief. Throughout his long career, he helped establish the discipline of chest surgery. His innovations included in 1925 developing a method to image the gallbladder by x-ray, paving the way for successful gallbladder surgery. He also was the first surgeon to remove an entire lung successfully.
In the 1920s, Barnes was one of the first hospitals in the country to treat diabetic patients with insulin, and received a gift of $10,000 from John D. Rockefeller to fund the treatment.
In 1944, Jewish Hospital became one of the first in the country to use penicillin to treat patients.
Barnes became the first hospital in the country to install a complete electronic data processing system after administrator Dr. Frank Bradley observed a similar system while serving as an advisor on the Los Alamos project.
In 1963, Jewish hospital was accepted as a major affiliate of Washington University.
In the early 1960s, Barnes became only the third hospital in the country to use the heart-lung bypass machine during open-heart surgery.
The hospital built a cyclotron in 1963 to enhance radiologic imaging and radiation treatments at the hospital. Also that year, Dr. William Newton performed the first kidney transplant in the Midwest.
Seventeen-story Queeny Tower, named for benefactor Edgar Monsanto Queeny, opened in 1965. The Tower pioneered a new approach to patient care: treating the patient as a whole person, not merely a bundle of medical needs. During this time, Barnes was also earning a national reputation for burn and trauma care, with an innovative burn treatments and a dedicated burn center under the direction of Dr. William Monafo.
Jewish Hospital was the first to treat tumors at or near the skin surface with a combination of hypothermia and radiation treatments. It became the region's first multi-disciplinary center for the treatment of breast, colorectal, lymphoma, thoracic and head-and-neck cancers.
In 1975, Barnes became one of only five hospitals in the US performing bone marrow transplants, and only the second center to have a whole-body EMI scanner.
By 1979, Barnes had become the fourth largest private hospital in the country.
The hospital performed the first successful in vitro fertilization in Missouri in 1983, and opened St. Louis' first Multiple Birth Center, offering medical support for women having more than one baby.
Orthopedic surgeons at Jewish Hospital were renowned for taking care of the athletes on St. Louis's professional sports teams -- the baseball and football Cardinals and St. Louis Blues hockey team.
Jewish Hospital's tradition of care extended to its own staff. It was the first hospital in the city to adopt a 40-hour work week for its employees and offer them Social Security.
In 1980, the first positron emission tomography (PET) scanner was developed at the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology and housed in the Barnes cardiac care unit, where it was used to determine the extent of patients' heart damage.
The first heart and liver transplants were performed at Barnes Hospital in 1985.
In 1987, the lung transplant team was created at Barnes Hospital.
Challenges posed by managed care, cuts in government spending and other factors led to new affiliations and mergers in the 1990s. In 1992, Barnes formalized its affiliation agreement with the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis. In 1993, the two hospitals joined with Christian Health Services to form BJC Health Systems -- the first healthcare system in the country to integrate academically based hospitals and a system of community hospitals serving a broad urban, suburban and rural area.
In January 1996, Barnes and Jewish Hospitals merged to form Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The merger built on the original affiliation by combining all of the attributes of the hospitals into a single organization led by one board of directors and one management team.
In the meantime, the medical advances continued. Dr. Ralph Clayman performed the nation's first laparoscopic nephrectomy -- removal of a kidney through minimally invasive technique -- in 1990. Dr. Susan E. Mackinnon performed the country's first nerve transplant on a 12-year-old Indiana boy in 1993. And Dr. Todd Howard, Dr. Jeffrey Lowell and Dr. Surendra Shenoy performed the country's first adult liver transplant using a living donor unrelated to the recipient in 1996, shortly after the Barnes-Jewish merger.
In the new century, Barnes-Jewish continues to lead the way in medicine. Some examples:
- The opening of the Center for Advanced Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center.
- The thoracic surgery program continues to be the leading center in the country, performing lung volume reduction surgery, lung-sparing cancer surgeries and running a clinic to manage pulmonary nodules.
- The orthopedic department, nationally-recognized for joint replacement and spinal surgeries, is charged with caring for the elite athletes on St. Louis's professional football and hockey teams -- the Rams and Blues.
- Barnes-Jewish Hospital made news worldwide with a procedure in which Dr. Randall Paniello restored a young woman's voice by building a new larynx from skin taken from her arm.
- Barnes-Jewish is one of only a handful of hospitals in the world offering dorsal rhizotomy surgery to improve the gait of adults with cerebral palsy.
These examples illustrate why Barnes-Jewish Hospital and its Washington University physicians are consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Please select a thumbnail above to read about the hospital's history from those years.