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Our History
The University of Kansas Health System 25th anniversary logo

25 Years of Advancing Academic Medicine

Twenty-five years ago, The University of Kansas Hospital became an independent authority with the ability to thrive or fail on its own and without any state appropriations. Since those humble beginnings, we did indeed thrive by always putting patients first. And we’ve stayed true to our guiding formula:

The best outcomes provided in the right way by the very best people lead to growth and financial sustainability.

Our reputation as the region’s premier academic health system was hard-earned through a collective vision and commitment to unmatched patient care. While we are proud of our successes, we remain determined to continue our journey to lead the nation in caring, healing, teaching and discovering.

Hospital origins

With his donation of land in 1905, Simeon Bell, MD, set the stage for academic medicine in Kansas City and the region. His gift led to the establishment of a hospital founded in 1906 as part of the University of Kansas School of Medicine. The first hospital was quickly outgrown, so a new Bell Hospital opened in the same location in 1911 and almost doubled the capacity of its predecessor. By 1924, the hospital had outgrown its space again, so a new hospital was built on a site near the health system’s current main campus, about a mile south of Goat Hill, near West 39th Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City.

The hospital marked an important milestone in 1998 when it became an independent hospital authority, receiving no state funding and no longer part of the School of Medicine. The hospital's official name became The University of Kansas Hospital.

Nearly 20 years later, another milestone occurred. The University of Kansas Hospital joined with the University of Kansas Physicians in 2017 to form The University of Kansas Health System.

Speaker 1:

I am pleased to announce the creation of an independent public authority to operate the hospital portion of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Bob Page:

We were founded in 1906. By the mid 90s, we were a failing organization based on every metric that mattered. In 1998. We were reborn here as part of the story is told by those who had the courage to lay the groundwork for us to rewrite our history.

Dave Kerr:

By 97, it was pretty obvious that the hospital was in some, some trouble, the reserves were about gone. And we even had staff telling us that within a year or so you may have to consider subsidies for the hospital, nothing gets the Ways and Means Chairman's attention faster than that kind of talk I was very willing to listen,

Speaker 4:

are a huge problem. It was a fiscal pressure that came about it was probably the leading drive to to do something better than what we were doing. Because what we were doing simply wasn't working.

Speaker 5:

Volume was declining. People in the community, when we surveyed really didn't even know what KU hospital was, if it existed, and if it existed, that you only went there, if, if you had to no one really wanted to go there.

Tammy Peterman:

It would take something extraordinary to preserve the hospital. We found it in a different organization, a different governance structure. We found it in a public authority.

Bob Page:

We developed a model statute from looking at a lot of other organizations. And we presented it to the legislature in 1997, many of whom were hearing about the hospital situation for the first time it passed in 1998.

Speaker 1:

There was any doubt in my mind as a lifelong Kansan that we needed to keep the hospital going it needed to survive and thrive. The question was, is was how to do it, I had a lot of really, really fine people advising me that this was the right direction to go.

Tammy Peterman:

We also owed it to the citizens of Kansas, as well as our employees and our physicians to change the course our hospital was on, we just needed a chance to operate differently.

Jon Jackson:

The governor signed it on, I believe, the 17th of February, and we had 225 days then to create a completely new organization separate from the one that we were running, and we had to get it completed by the end of 1998. Or else the the deal was null and void and we would have had to start over from from scratch.

Frank Ross:

There were times when people asked me if I ever doubted that the hospital would make it. No, I never doubted it. There were times when I was just startled by the success and the way it was coming. There were several landmark things that occurred in the early years that I think put everything in place for where it is today.

Bob Page:

During the first couple of years, there were several transactions that jump started our journey. We bought our cancer program back from Salic. We created Jayhawk primary care, and we significantly enhanced our cardiovascular program by bringing a group of cardiologists and CT surgeons over from a local competitor.

Tammy Peterman:

At the same time we focused on quality and patient satisfaction. We charged nursing with owning patient satisfaction, and began our transformation of nursing through a magnet journey. Our Vice Chair of the Board at that time, Dr. George Farhat reminded us every day that we were in business for one reason only to take great care of our patients, he would often say

Speaker 9:

they should doesn't care how much you know, they know how much you can.

Scott Glasrud:

The strategy of leading with quality and service is a winning strategy. And that will continue to serve the health system well, and you are exporting it to to new entities that the system is acquiring and and it's been great for the state of Kansas.

Speaker 11:

Well, I think everyone should be proud of the great turnaround that took place that has led to the success of a hospital and the hospital is positioned better than any other hospital in this community in most places in the country. For what lays ahead.

Tammy Peterman:

Our guiding formula, our focus on quality service of people has driven our growth. We have the very best people supported in the best and right way. And it is quite remarkable things continue to happen. We're so grateful for all those people who over the last 25 years made this possible and you continue to support the health system and the patients we serve.

Bob Page:

We've come a long way from those early days. We're proud but we're never satisfied. Our vision is to lead the nation in carrying healing teach Seeing and discovering. We are relentless in the pursuit of our vision. We will lead the nation

This shall be a place where the people of Kansas and areas surrounding may enjoy the best medical care available anywhere. – Simeon Bishop Bell, MD

Hospital milestones

  • Level I Trauma Center is verified

    We provide the region's only nationally verified Level I trauma center, ensuring the highest quality care for trauma victims.

  • World-class cardiac care program is established

    Teams of renowned cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, known at the time as Mid-America Cardiology and MidAmerica Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons, join the hospital to establish a world-class comprehensive cardiac care program for patients throughout the region. The Center for Advanced Heart Care later opens in 2006.

  • Hospital earns Magnet® designation

    This recognition, provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet Recognition Program, indicates high-quality patient care and nursing excellence. The hospital was the first Kansas-based facility to achieve this accreditation. The hospital would earn redesignation in 2011, 2016 and 2021.

  • U.S. News & World Report names us one of the nation's best hospitals

    The magazine lists us among the nation's top 50 hospitals for adult care in multiple medical and surgical specialties. We are also named the No. 1 hospital in Kansas City, the region and the state of Kansas. We have made the Best Hospitals list every year since 2007.

    Westwood, Kansas, outpatient cancer care facility opens

    A $20 million gift from Annette Bloch enhances patient care programs, and the facility is named the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion.

  • The University of Kansas Cancer Center acquires Kansas City Cancer Center

    This adds multiple cancer center locations to communities throughout the region and establishes an unprecedented approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, while serving as a national model for cancer care delivery.

    Hospital becomes the official healthcare provider of the Kansas City Royals

    In 2012, the hospital becomes the official healthcare provider of the Kansas City Chiefs.

  • The University of Kansas Cancer Center earns National Cancer Institute designation

    Only 71 cancer centers in the nation are NCI-designated. The cancer center would renew its designation in 2017.

    Hospital earns Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center designation

    The hospital is the first in Kansas City to earn this designation for high-quality stroke care.

    Indian Creek Campus opens

    Hospital and clinic locations in Johnson County, Kansas, help meet increased demand for conveniently located care from surgeons and other specialists.

    Turning Point joins The University of Kansas Hospital

    This community resource focuses on the emotional, social and psychological needs of people dealing with serious or chronic illnesses.

  • Center for Transplantation opens

    The center provides comprehensive care for liver, kidney, pancreas and heart transplant patients in one location.

  • The Kansas Heart and Stroke Collaborative is established

    The University of Kansas Hospital establishes the program after receiving a $12.5 million grant. Originally aimed at improving prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke in Kansas, the Care Collaborative, as it's now known, has expanded its focus to include improvements in sepsis, trauma and palliative care.

  • Expanded behavioral healthcare services

    The hospital expands its behavioral healthcare services through new hospital locations at Marillac, which serves children and adolescents, and KVC Health Systems, which serves adults.

  • Blood and marrow transplant program performs first bone marrow transplant in an adult Kansas woman to cure sickle cell disease

    The region's largest blood and marrow transplant program, established in 1977, offers lifesaving procedures for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers.

  • First in the nation to achieve Comprehensive Cardiac Center (CCC) certification

    CCC certification honors heart programs with a comprehensive approach to care and a commitment to excellence, along with a dedication to continuous improvement.

    The University of Kansas Hospital and The University of Kansas Physicians combine to form The University of Kansas Health System

    By pooling the collective knowledge and resources of our physicians and staff, we are able to better meet the needs of the communities we serve.

    Cambridge Tower A opens

    Cambridge Tower A is an expansion on the main campus of The University of Kansas Health System, featuring 92 private rooms and 11 state-of-the-art surgical suites.

    Achieved Vizient's 2017 Bernard A. Birnbaum, MD, Quality Leadership Award

    The award recognizes high performance in the areas of safety, timeliness, effectiveness, efficiency, equity and patient-centeredness.

    The University of Kansas Health System acquires St. Francis Health

    The now-St. Francis Campus, acquired in a partnership with Ardent Health Services, helps enhance healthcare delivery in the Topeka area.

    The University of Kansas Health System becomes a founding member of Centrus Health

    Along with North Kansas City Hospital and Shawnee Mission Health, this clinically integrated network focuses on transforming healthcare by improving outcomes at a lower cost through the physician-led network of choice. Today, the effort includes more than 1,650 physicians.

    The University of Kansas Health System partners with Vibrant Health to support Federally Qualified Health Centers in Wyandotte County

    These centers provide essential primary care to underserved communities.

  • The University of Kansas Health System announces Strawberry Hill Campus

    The facility in Kansas City, Kansas, opens in 2019. It is the home of the health system's expanded mental and behavioral health program.

    Great Bend Regional Hospital becomes The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus

    Affiliated clinics, Central Kansas Family Practice and Heartland Regional, also join the health system.

  • The University of Kansas Health System announces region’s first proton therapy

    Proton therapy is a highly specialized, state-of-the-art form of radiation treatment and will be offered through The University of Kansas Cancer Center. The proton therapy center opened on the health system’s main campus in Kansas City in 2022.

  • The University of Kansas Health System responds to COVID-19 pandemic

    The University of Kansas Health System quickly adapts our services and treatments to meet rapidly changing protocols during the pandemic. Hundreds of health system employees take on temporary but mission-critical roles to staff swab clinics, man screening stations, and answer hotline calls. Our lab team develops an in-house test that can detect COVID-19.

    The health system makes the transition to telehealth to make sure patients get the care they need. The move to telehealth had been planned for a 2-year rollout but happens in just 2 weeks. The implementation team connects providers with patients by Zoom, all while patients are able to remain safe at home.

    As questions about the virus and preventing illness increase, Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer, and Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of infection prevention and control, offer daily briefings for the news media. These briefings become popular Facebook Live forums, drawing viewers from around the world and becomes the “Morning Medical Update.”

    As shortages of personal protective equipment continue, the health system partners with Kansas City business leaders to source and secure needed healthcare supplies in support of the region’s COVID-19 response.

  • The University of Kansas Health System reaches 5,000 organ transplants

    The health system’s first organ transplant, performed in 1969, was a kidney transplant and the system’s 5,000th organ transplant was also a kidney transplant. Our transplant teams have performed more than 3,000 kidney transplants, more than 1,700 liver transplants and more than 130 heart transplants.

    Fourth consecutive Magnet® designation achieved in midst of pandemic

    After receiving the hospital’s 1st Magnet designation in 2006, the health system’s Kansas City division achieves its 4th consecutive designation in September 2021. Only about 9% of hospitals nationwide attain Magnet designation and less than 2% of U.S. hospitals have received the designation 4 or more times.

    Patient care program for blood cancers and immunotherapy expands

    The December 2021 opening of levels 8, 9 and 10 in Cambridge Tower A on the main campus in Kansas City adds 100 rooms for patients. Eighty-four of these beds are designated specifically for cancer care, with levels 9 and 10 dedicated for patients who have leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers, and those who are receiving immunotherapy treatments.

  • The Proton Therapy Center opens and treats its first cancer patients

    The University of Kansas Cancer Center Proton Therapy Center is one of only 42 such centers in the US, offering highly specialized treatment for many types of cancer, including pediatric cancer. The Proton Center treated its first patients in May of this year.

    Cancer center offers all available FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapies

    The University of Kansas Cancer Center is among the world’s first providers of FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy and one of only a few centers to offer all of the FDA-approved therapies. This precision cancer therapy offers new potential to cure cancer and save lives.

Cambridge Tower A

A legacy of excellence

Our reputation as the region’s premier academic health system was hard-earned, making each achievement that much more meaningful. Today, we are consistently ranked among the nation's top hospitals and academic medical centers in the country.
Our accomplishments

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