Coming of Age
Coming of Age: 1940-1979
As the 1940s dawned, White Memorial Hospital stood ready to serve a rapidly growing Los Angeles with a new, seismically sound 180-bed hospital. The state-of-the-art facilities featured a new radiology suite, private rooms, an operating suite, a children’s ward and a solarium. Meanwhile, the White Memorial Clinic (a consolidation of the hospital’s first clinic and its Boyle Avenue dispensary) had become one of the largest clinics in the country, caring for as many as 2,500 low-income patients each week.
By the 1950s, the hospital was enjoying its most prosperous years yet, frequently operating at 100 percent occupancy. Success led once again to a need for expanded facilities, so the hospital undertook an ambitious building campaign, completing its new 200-bed hospital wing in 1955 at a cost of $2.3 million. 1 Vice President Richard Nixon delivered the keynote address at the building’s dedication ceremony.
As the 1950s drew to a close, White Memorial’s campus was spread out among eight square city blocks, had 304 beds and was rapidly becoming a regional medical center. Yet, a crisis of identity loomed on the horizon, threatening to destroy the thriving organization.
A Painful Separation
By the late 1950s, the medical school that was divided between Loma Linda and White Memorial campuses faced increasing pressure from inside and outside to merge into a single location. The school’s accrediting organization didn’t like the split-campus concept, and the problems of running a cohesive program that was separated by 60 miles had grown more and more challenging. Leaders at Loma Linda and White Memorial agonized over their response to this dilemma.
Finally in 1962, the dreaded announcement came: Loma Linda University would relocate its students and faculty to a consolidated campus in Loma Linda. This decision launched the most difficult period in White Memorial’s nearly 50-year history, as many experienced physicians and employees followed the school to Loma Linda. Some people even advised White Memorial’s leaders to sell the hospital.
But the spirit of “The White” persevered, and in 1963, the hospital’s ownership was transferred from Loma Linda University to the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a division of the Adventist Church. To more accurately reflect the hospital’s growing role in its community, the name was changed from White Memorial Hospital to White Memorial Medical Center.
Technology Fuels Growth
From the late 1950s through the 1970s, a revolution in medical technology transformed White Memorial. In 1958, pioneering surgeons at the hospital were among the first in Southern California to begin performing modern open-heart surgery with the newly developed heart-lung bypass machine. In 1968, the new Diagnostic and Treatment building2 housed an updated outpatient clinic and offered the latest technologies for emergency care and surgery.
The next year, the hospital opened its first cardiac intensive care unit and, in 1971, boosted its capabilities further with a pediatric intensive care unit, laminar flow room for orthopedic surgery and new nuclear medicine facility. In 1974, White Memorial added a new Rehabilitation Center, student housing complex and 69-bed patient care tower (now known as the East Tower).
While White Memorial continued to offer innovative and compassionate care to its community, the financial prosperity the hospital enjoyed in the 1950s and 60s gave way to a new reality as the 1970s progressed. Lower reimbursements from the nation’s new Medicare program, the hospital’s rapidly rising charity care costs and other factors combined to present White Memorial’s leadership with serious financial challenges as the decade of the 80s began.
1 The 1955 building continues to function as the main hospital building. It is scheduled to be demolished as part of the New White Memorial project and replaced with a new structure by 2006.
2 The D&T building is now commonly known as the North Tower and is scheduled to undergo renovation in 2005.