Wednesday, June 13, 2007

From the Sanitarium to a future beyond the city

Washington Adventist marks 100 years, looks to future

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J. Adam Fenster⁄The Gazette
Penny Clark, a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, was born at the hospital when it was called the Washington Sanitarium. Her father, sister, brother and two daughters also were born there and her mother worked there as well. The hospital turns100 years old today.
Penny Clark has Washington Adventist Hospital in her genes. Her father was born there in 1931. Her mother worked in the old Washington Sanitarium while pregnant with Clark. Both of Clark’s daughters were delivered at the hospital, along with Clark herself in 1958 and her younger brother and sister several years later.

Clark, 47, a registered nurse, said it was her own history and the hospital’s value system, which matched that of her ‘‘very Seventh-day Adventist” family that brought her there. It is the relationships she has built that have kept her there for nearly 25 years.

Clark is one of thousands who maintain deep ties to Washington Adventist Hospital, an institution that celebrates its 100th birthday today.

‘‘I don’t do much outside the hospital,” joked Clark, who has worked in the hospital’s nursery since 1983 and cared for many of the infants born to the hospital’s leaders, including president Jere Stocks’ daughter.

The centennial comes on the heels of an announcement by hospital officials April 17 that 48 acres were purchased in the White Oak⁄Calverton area of Silver Spring to serve as the hospital’s new site. Stocks has said that the hospital’s current campus in Takoma Park will not be sold by Washington Adventist, and future uses will be determined over the next few years with input from the community.

‘‘Rightly so, people are asking, ‘How’s this going to work?’ ... There’s lots of anticipation about the future,” Stocks said Monday. ‘‘There’s an awful lot of history here.”

The hospital’s history began before it opened its doors as the Washington Sanitarium, or the ‘‘San,” June 13, 1907. According to records compiled by Historic Takoma Inc., a group of Seventh-day Adventists from the General Conference purchased the land to be used in part for a wellness center in 1903. The facility was to ‘‘do an important work for the people of Washington” and aimed to promote the ‘‘saving of souls,” according to manuscripts by Adventist leader Ellen G. White, written between 1905 and 1907 and compiled by the Ellen G. White Estate Inc.

The Washington Sanitarium was the oldest medical facility in Montgomery County, with room for about 40 patients. Today, Washington Adventist has 285 beds, with the potential for more at the new site.

‘‘The hospital has changed, oh my, the hospital has changed,” said Helen West, who worked at the hospital as a registered nurse in obstetrics and outpatient care for 26 years, from 1958 until 1984. Her son and daughter were born at the hospital. ‘‘Sometimes I go over there, and I think I need a map,” she said of visits as a patient there.

West attended three years of nursing school in the 1950s at the sanitarium, and stayed at what she called her ‘‘home” until the outpatient clinic where she was employed closed. The hospital’s emergency department eventually absorbed the clinic, which provided indigent care, she said.

Geoffrey Morgan, the hospital’s vice president for expanded access, started on the clinical side in what would become the sanitarium’s last year in 1982. Morgan, who began his career there as a student in respiratory therapy, said the opportunity to advance to an administrative position kept him at Washington Adventist.

‘‘It was far less modern than it is today,” said Morgan, a Seventh-day Adventist and Columbia Union College alum, of the facilities at the San. ‘‘Technology has been a tremendous asset.”

Clark said while she could use more space for the growing number of babies born at Washington Adventist, the technological advancements that allow her department to care for significantly premature babies and babies born without the recommended prenatal care has been important in keeping the hospital competitive.

More space for prenatal care and new equipment could be addressed by the new facility on the recently purchased land. For Clark, the announcement of the expansion was bittersweet. While she hasn’t decided whether she’ll be moving with the hospital, the choice could be made easier if she knew the co-workers who have become her best friends over the last two decades would be coming with her.

‘‘It all happened almost by accident,” Clark said of her long tenure at Washington Adventist. ‘‘I’ve just become so attached to the people I work with here.”

100 years atWashingtonAdventist Hospital

1907 – WashingtonSanitarium opens

1918 – Old hospital building constructed

1950 – $1.4 millionexpansion of hospital

1970 – $12.5 millionexpansion project adds 180,000 square feet

1973 – Hospital changes name to WashingtonAdventist Hospital

1982 – WashingtonSanitarium torn down

2005 – Officials announce hospital is seeking to move out of Takoma Park

2007 – Land purchasedfor new site in Calverton⁄White Oak area

Sources: Historic Takoma Inc., Montgomery County Historical Society Library, Washington Adventist Hospital