Skip to contents
In This Issue:
Click here for: BWH Milestones
The lighter side of forming BWH
BWH-A quarter century by the numbers
This month marks the 25th anniversary of Brigham and Women's Hospital, recognized as one of the nation's top hospitals and respected around the world for excellence in patient care, innovative education and state-of-the-art research. Born from a merger of the Boston Hospital for Women (BHW), the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (PBBH) and the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital (RBBH), BWH first welcomed patients to the new 16-floor Tower at 75 Francis St. on July 9, 1980.
“Brigham and Women's Hospital has evolved into an institution far greater than the sum of its initial three parts,” said Chief Medical Officer Andy Whittemore, MD, who began at PBBH in 1976 as a vascular surgery fellow. “The intellectual vigor that characterizes our environment is unparalleled and provides a unique incubator for innovation.”
Top administrators from the predecessor hospitals faced the challenge of bringing together three separate hospitals, each with their own identities and boards of directors, during a period of increased public scrutiny of hospital expansions. By working with community representatives from the beginning to provide top quality care for its Mission Hill neighbors and patients throughout New England and the world, BWH has thrived during the last quarter century.
Despite unifying the combined strengths of obstetrics and gynecology from BHW, brain surgery, neurosciences and physician education at PBBH and pioneering arthritis research and treatment of RBBH, the first steps for BWH were not easy. However, longtime staff point to two hospital events that boosted morale and galvanized the community up and down the Pike.
In 1983, a 32-year-old Rhode Island woman who was seven months pregnant and suffering from congestive heart failure was admitted to BWH. A multi-disciplinary team of high-risk obstetricians and cardiac surgeons successfully completed what was dubbed “mission impossible surgery”-both an emergency Caesarian section and open-heart surgery.
A year later, BWH became the first New England hospital to perform heart transplant surgery, continuing the Brigham legacy as one of the nation's leading transplant centers, a distinguished legacy that includes the first-ever successful human organ transplant at PBBH in 1954.
In 2000, BWH performed the first quadruple organ transplant by harvesting four organs from a single donor for four recipients. Last year, the hospital laid claim to another “first” when teams of doctors, nurses and ICU staff orchestrated five lung transplants in 36 hours.
The initial conception of BWH came in the 1950s when the dean of Harvard Medical School suggested its teaching hospitals consolidate. In 1962, the two independent Brigham hospitals, the Free Hospital for Women and the Boston Lying-in Hospital loosely joined as Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC). After the Free Hospital for Women and the Lying-in merged to form the Boston Hospital for Women in 1966, plans for a complete merger unfolded and became official in 1974. A year later, AHC broke ground on an ambitious expansion project that The Boston Globe called, “the single largest hospital construction project in the history of the Commonwealth.”
With educating future generations of clinicians as a common theme on Francis Street, construction plans for the new BWH called for alternating massive projects between clinical care and research. The Tower opened to patients in 1980, and its research counterpart, the Thorn Building, was completed in 1985. Two years later, ASB II welcomed ambulatory patients, and what is now the 12-story Connors Center opened in 1994.
Today, BWH offers 747 inpatient beds and expert clinical care in dozens of specialties and subspecialties that rank among the best in the country. The hospital each year hosts nearly 44,000 inpatients, delivers about 10,000 babies and receives approximately three million ambulatory visits. As a leading recipient of funding from the National Institutes of Health, BWH's research programs continuously flourish and regularly produce groundbreaking research. Likewise, BWH clinicians who are leaders in their field provide top-notch training to talented medical school students and graduates-many of whom ultimately become our nation's distinguished clinical leaders.
Although its footprint, landscape and technology have evolved over the last quarter century, BWH remains committed to its core mission of patient care, research and education. This fall, BWH officially breaks ground on the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, a modern and technologically advanced facility that promises to set the standard of care for future generations.