Throwback Thursday: University Health’s history dates back to 1917

SAN ANTONIO – Since 1917, the University Health System has stood as a beacon of the medical community across San Antonio and South Texas.

The Robert B. Green Memorial Hospital was University Health’s first location.

The building, which still stands today, was named after a county judge and former state senator.

“The first patient was admitted to the Robert B. Green on Feb. 2, 1917, so we're in our 102nd year anniversary,” said Leni Kirkman, spokesperson for University Health System.

San Antonio was in the midst of a population boom at the time.

Thousands of people moved to the area -- many due to preparations for World War I and others who had fled the Mexican Revolution.

A charity hospital was needed to care for patients, and the city and county each contributed half of the $250,000 required to build the facility.

It was built just in time to combat an influenza epidemic that struck San Antonio a year later.

“The hospital really cared for a lot of people in 1918 and saved a lot of lives because it was here at the time.

The hospital continued to treat residents for decades, but funding was inconsistent.

City and county officials saw an immediate need to keep the hospital from completely shutting down and asked voters take action.

In 1955, voters approved the creation of the Bexar County Hospital District, one of the first such districts in the state.

The vote, which created a tax to fund the hospital, gave University Health new life and direction.

The next major milestone for University Health was in 1965, when officials broke ground on the Bexar County Hospital in the medical center area.

“The decision was made to ultimately build it way out here on the far north west side of San Antonio,” said Kirkman. “You know in the early 1960s there were a lot more cows than people in this area.”

The hospital and a medical school, now called UT Health San Antonio, were completed in 1968.

“That first class of medical students was, I think, about 225 medical students, and then I think there were like 17 residents,” said Kirkman.

Today, there are more than 700 resident physicians practicing at the school and across the network.

The hospital has expanded by leaps and bounds. The latest phase of University Hospital’s improvements started in 2008.

The Robert B. Green Pavilion opened in 2013 and the Sky Tower a year later.

“They have been transformational for our organization. One, the availability of care, the ability to attract and retain the very best nurses and physicians to provide the level of amenities that people expect when they go to the hospital,” said Kirkman.

Patient care is still what matters most and it’s made University Hospital a trusted choice in healthcare in South Texas. The rooms at University Hospital are all private rooms now.

“Let’s try to create an environment that is, as you know, patient friendly and warm and large enough for your family to come visit you and just comfortable and that has been transformational for our organization," said Kirkman.

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