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Our Healing Mission: Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, from the 19th and into the 21st Century
By Mark D. Bowles
When Saint Francis Hospital first opened its doors for patients in September 1897, its chances of survival appeared remote. Its first administrator was a French nun who had less than two years of nursing training in Lyon, France, and barely spoke any English. Her staff included four American nuns who had no medical experience and had never even seen a hospital. The hospital building was located in a vacant, run-down, three-story former seminary, donated by the Hartford bishop. Despite the bishop’s backing, the local clergy were strong (though silent) detractors of the project because they faced significant financial problems in their own parishes and believed a hospital would further divert funds from their missions. Other more vocal detractors included local residents who did not want a hospital bringing the infirm and diseased near their homes.
Such conditions do not usually prove to be the genesis of a strong and lasting medical institution. But, these limitations, however imposing, did not inhibit its founders from aspiring to build the first Catholic hospital in Connecticut and believing that it could become among the best in the nation. They were confident that the medical professionals and the community of Hartford would eventually support Saint Francis’ mission and enable it to become a leading health care institution. That dream evolved over the course of one century and in 1998, Saint Francis was honored as a Top 100 hospital in the United States. Our Healing Mission tells the story of that journey.
--Edward S. Johnson, Senior Vice President, Saint Francis Hospital