The history of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center spans 100+ years
Founded as a 10-bed hospital for children who suffered incurable conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and polio, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is the only free-standing children’s hospital in Connecticut that offers compassionate care to children of all ages. It has specialized exclusively in pediatric care since its inception, responding to the unique needs of children’s smaller, still-growing bodies and providing solutions to the critical health issues that challenge every generation. At every stage, the organization has grown to meet the greatest needs, offering the best care available in state-of-the-art facilities.
The Newington Home for Incurables was founded at the base of Cedar Mountain in Newington. It was established by the Connecticut Children’s Aid Society under the leadership of Virginia Thrall Smith to provide a refuge for children with disabilities. The first 10 children—inmates as they were called—lived in a farmhouse on the 56-acre working farm. The patients and staff raised all their own food, including vegetables, meat, eggs and milk.
A second house was built on the property, providing care to 41 children. Virginia Thrall Smith helped enact Connecticut legislation which removed physically disabled children from almshouses and placed them in the Newington Home for Incurables for care.
A hospital was built on the property of the Newington Home for Incurables to provide the children with orthopaedic surgical care.
Constance Leigh became the executive director and changed the name of the institution to the Newington Home for Crippled Children, as Leigh did not believe that children were incurable. The number of patients living at the Home had more than tripled. A physical therapy department was formed to help treat pediatric patients with physical disabilities.
Maurice Pike, MD, a well-known orthopaedic surgeon, became the first resident doctor and a second building was added to the hospital the following year. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then the Governor of New York and already afflicted with polio, was the keynote speaker at the hospital’s dedication ceremony.
A second orthopaedic surgeon, Burr H. Curtis, MD, joined the medical staff, beginning a relationship with the hospital that spanned more than 50 years.
The name of the institution changed for the second time, to the Newington Home and Hospital for Crippled Children. The facility became the first in Connecticut certified to train orthopaedic resident physicians. More than 75 percent of the inpatients were children afflicted with polio.
An on-campus school wing opened, called the Isidore Wise Pavilion, where patients could learn and study while being treated.
The development of the polio vaccine spurred significant change in the focus and direction of the hospital. Dr. Burr Curtis, then surgeon-in-chief, conducted a far reaching study of the care of children in other children’s hospitals. His research and resulting paper changed the direction of the hospital from one which primarily concentrated on orthopaedics and children with disabilities to a hospital which provided care to the total child.
The hospital began to add more pediatric specialty programs and Frederick J. Flynn, MD, was appointed clinical director of pediatric services.
Ground was broken for the addition of a west wing to the hospital. When the new building opened three years later, it is named in dedication to Dr. Curtis, then medical director and executive director of the institution, which was renamed as the Newington Children’s Hospital.
Pediatric specialty care services in radiology, neurology, pathology, and ophthalmology were added to the hospital’s offerings. Newington Children’s Hospital added special programs to evaluate child development and learning, and opened an inpatient psychiatric service. The dental department also became affiliated with the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.
Dr. Curtis stepped down as executive director and was succeeded by John Menichetti, president and CEO of Newington Children’s Hospital. Two years later, Dr. Curtis stepped down as medical director, and was succeeded by Robert A. Kramer, MD.
The Gait Analysis Laboratory, the first of its kind in the United States, opened at Newington Children’s Hospital.
Newington Children’s Hospital signed a memorandum of understanding with Hartford Hospital to develop plans to consolidate pediatric services. Three years later, the two hospitals filed a Certification of Need (CON) application to construct a 157-bed children’s hospital in Hartford with the State Commission on Hospitals and Healthcare.
Lewin Associates conducted a study of the CON application. The examination validated the need for a children’s hospital in Hartford, yet recommended some key revisions:
- The number of beds at the hospital be scaled back to 138
- The psychiatry division be located at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living
- University of Connecticut School of Medicine and its pediatric beds at John Dempsey Hospital be included
- Include a greater emphasis on primary and preventative care in the new hospital
The report also recommended including Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in discussions about pediatric needs in Hartford, and expanding the hospital’s board of directors to include seats held by Saint Francis, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and representatives of the community. Finally, the report proposed the establishment of the Children’s Fund, to be endowed with a $15 million contribution from Newington Children’s Hospital. Based on these recommendations, Newington Children’s Hospital submitted a revised CON application. The Commission approved the need in 1993. That year, the hospital’s psychiatric beds were relocated to the Institute of Living.
Ground was broken for the construction of a $90 million children’s hospital on Washington Street in Hartford.
Scott Goodspeed succeeded John Menichietti as president and CEO of Newington Children’s Hospital. In June, the hospital announced that the new children’s hospital will be known as Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Pediatric patients from Newington Children’s Hospital, Hartford Hospital and the University of Connecticut Health Center/John Dempsey Hospital moved in on March 30, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center opens its doors to the public on April 2.
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center became the only freestanding independent hospital in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children. It also became the new home of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine pediatric residency program.
Connecticut Children’s was the first in Connecticut to perform robotic surgery on a child (division of urology).
Connecticut Children’s announced an affiliation agreement with Shriners Hospitals for Children, bringing its comprehensive pediatric care to Springfield, MA.