Mommy, where do children's hospitals come from?

The origins of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital


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Stanford’s steadfast efforts to provide pediatric care bore fruit 15 years ago when Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital opened its doors.

Stanford’s original hospital, Lane Hospital, opened in 1895 and had a dedicated pediatric service. The hospital, in San Francisco, was equipped to provide acute care, but had too few beds for children with illnesses that required long periods of rest, such as TB and rheumatic fever.

As did many other urban hospitals, Stanford responded to its need for long-term beds by opening a separate chronic disease facility in a rural area. The Stanford Home for Convalescent Children officially opened in Palo Alto in 1919, and its patients’ treatment, according to Irving Schulman, MD, Stanford professor and chair emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics, involved, among other things, good nutrition, fresh air and sunshine.

After the medical school’s move to Palo Alto in 1959, children continued receiving care at either the 44-bed pediatric unit in the main hospital or the convalescent hospital. In 1970, the latter moved to larger quarters on Sand Hill Road and changed its name to Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

By the end of the century, fewer children were stricken with the diseases the convalescent hospital was designed to treat. Because the building lacked operating rooms and intensive care units, it was unable to easily accommodate children with other, acute illnesses.

The chair of Stanford hospital’s board, Lucile Packard, argued that all Stanford pediatric services should be consolidated in a new children’s hospital located on the medical center campus. Despite resistance from some board members, the board finally approved plans for the so-called New Children’s Hospital in 1982.

Packard went on to play a key role in designing and planning the new hospital, which was to be physically connected to Stanford’s adult hospital; she and her husband, David, donated $40 million toward the building in 1986. Although Packard reportedly didn’t wish for the hospital to be named after her, she agreed to it shortly before her death in 1987. Schulman became the hospital’s first chief of staff.

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which opened its doors in June 1991, now has 264 beds and was recently named one of the nation’s top 10 pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is well-known for many of its programs, including the Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases; the Children’s Heart Center, which is recognized as one of the best in the nation; and the Center for Healthy Weight, which was the first in California to offer pediatric weight-loss surgery.

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