Nearly 100 Years of Compassionate Care
In nearly 100 years, Miami City Hospital, spearheaded by physician and civic leader Dr. James M. Jackson, has grown from a small, 13-bed hospital to a comprehensive health system with several hospitals and clinics, now called Jackson Health System (JHS). JHS has become a renowned healthcare provider recognized for its highly-trained physicians and cutting-edge care. While many things have changed, one thing remains the same: Jackson continues to be a vital part of the South Florida community, providing state-of-the-art compassionate care to people from all walks of life.
Miami City Hospital opened its doors on June 25, 1918, replacing the deteriorating Friendly Society Hospital on Biscayne Boulevard. The hospital opened in the midst of an influenza epidemic and was immediately filled to capacity. Once the crisis passed, a volunteer Board of Trustees was appointed to lead the quickly growing hospital.
From the beginning, hospital staff strived to be leaders on the forefront of medical care. The first X-rays at the hospital were taken in 1919 by Dr. A.F. Kaspar on a patient with a fractured leg. Three years later, an emergency room was established “to take care of the many accidents arising from congested traffic and industrial activities,” according to a newspaper article at the time.
The Miami community and its hospital suffered a great loss in 1924 with the death of its first president, Dr. Jackson. Local businesses closed for a day to mourn his passing and the Miami City Commission renamed the hospital the James M. Jackson Memorial Hospital in his honor.
When a major hurricane struck Miami on Sept. 17, 1926, the hospital was not spared from the storm. Staff members carried patients down the stairs in their beds to protect them from flying glass and timber. With no electricity, surgeons worked by the light of kerosene lanterns while standing in several inches of water. After more than 700 victims were treated at the hospital, the staff helped establish relief stations in the most devastated parts of town.
Despite hard times, Jackson continued to flourish. By 1929, the hospital had a modern obstetrical delivery room equipped with two delivery tables and an anesthesia system. In 1946, the city’s first cancer detection clinic was established at Jackson, which was the only hospital in the region to offer radium treatment for cancer. That same year, a severe polio epidemic struck Miami, and the hospital borrowed five iron lungs to go with its own three.
In the early 1950s, Florida’s lack of a medical school began to be a subject of concern in Tallahassee. Several cities lobbied for the school but, ultimately, Miami was chosen. On Sept. 22, 1952, the University of Miami School of Medicine welcomed its first class of 26 students, and Jackson Memorial Hospital immediately became an integral part of the medical school’s program.
In 1956, Dr. Robert S. Litwak, chief of thoracic surgery, performed the first open heart operation in Florida, and by 1960, the hospital was performing cardiopulmonary bypass procedures aided by a new heart-lung machine. That year, the hospital purchased its first artificial kidney and began offering dialysis treatment to renal patients.
In the Spotlight
Jackson made national news in 1965 when the cruise ship Yarmouth Castle caught fire offshore. Five badly burned passengers were airlifted from the Bahamas and treated with an innovative silver nitrate solution at Jackson Memorial’s special burn unit.
During the 1970s, new programs were added to attract private patients. In 1973, the National Cancer Institute picked Jackson as the site for the Comprehensive Cancer Center for the state of Florida, one of 20 in the nation. The decade also saw Jackson’s Kidney Transplantation Center open in 1977, with 24 transplants performed in the first year.
Jackson’s reputation for patient care continued to grow in the 1980s. When U.S. Rep. William Lehman suffered a sudden pain in the back while walking around Capitol Hill in 1983, he flew to Miami for diagnosis and treatment. “When the Capitol physician told me I would have to go into a hospital, I had no trouble making up my mind — Jackson,” Lehman said.
In 1986, Jackson Memorial Hospital was named among the top 25 medical facilities in the United States by The Best in Medicine and was the only public hospital to be included.
Another addition to the hospital’s national reputation was the 1992 opening of the Ryder Trauma Center, a state-of-the-art facility, just weeks before Hurricane Andrew devastated south Miami-Dade.
In the past decade, Jackson has continued to grow. Because of its expansion beyond the hospital walls into primary care centers, school clinics and other facilities, the Public Health Trust Board of Trustees created Jackson Health System in 2001 to encompass all the ways Jackson provides health care to Miami-Dade County. Jackson Memorial Hospital remains the centerpiece of the system and in 2001, JHS acquired Jackson South Community Hospital (formerly Deering Hospital), and in 2006, Parkway Regional Medical Center became Jackson North Medical Center.
In nearly 100 years, Jackson has evolved into one of the world’s top medical providers, with an influence that reaches far beyond South Florida.