Miami Valley Hospital: Serving and healing for 125 years

From a Fourth Street house, when at the end of the 19th century the most advanced treatment was medicine made from bark and roots, Miami Valley Hospital has grown into a sprawling modern campus where neurosurgery is performed with laser-like precision and robots fix hearts.

This month the hospital will celebrate its 125th anniversary.

As Dayton’s population grew in the late 1800s, Rev. Carl Mueller, a minister at St. John’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church, today known as St. John United Church of Christ, recognized the city was in need of more medical care and in 1890 helped form the Protestant Deaconess Society to “aid the sick and the needy.”

“Rev. Mueller wanted the exploding Dayton community to have access to health care,” said Mark S. Shaker, current President and CEO of Miami Valley Hospital. “At the time there was only one small hospital, St. Elizabeth’s, to care for the 61,220 citizens living in Dayton. In essence he wanted to make sure the health care needs of the community were met.”

A year later the Protestant Deaconess Hospital opened in a converted private home, the Adam Pritz residence, at 7 East Fourth St. in downtown Dayton.

The 37-bed hospital was staffed by seven physicians who created remedies with herbs, roots, barks and vegetables. A handful of deaconesses, women who ministered to the needs of patients, put in long hours cooking meals, scrubbing floors and boiling laundry as well as sleeping by the bedsides of the critically ill.

To help sustain the hospital, Dayton residents left donations at the back door to feed the staff and patients. Early hospital records detail offerings of beef, barrels of apples, jams, soap powder and potatoes.

Within a few years the downtown home was no longer large enough to care for the sick and $100,000 was raised for a new hospital building. That building was dedicated Oct. 14, 1894, in its current location along Main Street between Apple and Wyoming streets. At that point, the hospital had 150 beds and a separate surgical suite. Records indicate patients were treated on average for 74 cents a day. The hospital charged $5 a week for a private room and patients paid whatever they could afford for a bed in the public wards.

The important role the deaconesses played in health care led to the first school of nursing in 1899. Seven students were part of the first class which required a variety of entrance qualifications. The nursing students had to “be of sound health, be able to read aloud and to understand arithmetic as far as fractions and percentages and to take notes at lectures.”

The hospital has seen many milestones since its beginning. In 1903 the hospital formally changed its name to Miami Valley Hospital. The first emergency room opened in 1912 and outpatient clinics opened throughout the city when flood waters devastated Dayton in 1913.

In 1953 4,500 people attended the dedication of a newly expanded facility. The hospital’s first intensive care unit, made up of 12-beds, opened in 1959 and the first open heart operation was performed in 1968.

Just five years ago the new 12-story, 484,000-square-foot patient tower was added providing 178 private rooms. The hospital has grown from the original seven doctors and handful of deaconesses to more than 1,200 physicians and over 5,000 staff members.

“Over the past 125 years Miami Valley Hospital has stayed true to the mission of our founding fathers,” Shaker said. “We are here to serve the community and to help restore health to its citizens.”

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