• We’ve Been Changing Outcomes for Children for More Than a Century

    Cincinnati Children’s began providing specialized care for children 130 years ago. In that time, we’ve grown from a small children's hospital to a large, multisite medical center that cares for children from across the globe. Learn more about our history and our discoveries and breakthroughs that have changed the way the world’s medical providers care for children.

  • History of the Medical Center

    The Mount Auburn location.
    The Mount Auburn location.

    An Episcopal Touch

    In 1883, a hospital was a scary place, and conditions were especially bad for children. Cincinnati residents Mrs. Robert Dayton, Isabelle Hopkins and Mary Emery wanted to change that situation. They won support from their bishop to open a hospital for children as a project of the Episcopal diocese. The Hospital of the Protestant Episcopal Church (later to become the Children’s Hospital, and today Cincinnati Children’s) was incorporated in November 1883 and opened a few months later in a rented three-bedroom house in Walnut Hills. A few years later, Thomas and J. Josiah Emery purchased land in Mount Auburn and built a new hospital, which opened in November 1887.

    Children in hospital beds.
    Children in hospital beds.

    An Expanding Mission

    In 1926, the hospital moved to a new, 200-bed facility near the College of Medicine, and established a formal affiliation as the Department of Pediatrics. The chairman of pediatrics, A. Graeme Mitchell, MD, envisioned a research mission, as well. He wrote to the hospital’s board: “Unless the hospital is interested in the prevention as well as the cure of disease … we have all of us failed to function to the fullest extent.” In response, board president William Cooper Procter donated $2.5 million to build and endow the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, which opened in 1931.

    Image of Albert Sabin.
    Image of Albert Sabin.

    The War Years

    During World War II, many hospital physicians and researchers were called to military service. Working at the Research Foundation, Samuel Rapoport developed a way to preserve whole blood, a breakthrough that helped save lives on the battlefield. His research colleague, Albert Sabin, served in the US Army Medical Corps and did important research on encephalitis, sandfly fever and dengue fever. At the war’s end, Sabin returned to Cincinnati Children’s to continue his pioneering research on polio.

    After the war, Ashley Weech, MD, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, began to rebuild the hospital staff. New pediatric subspecialty departments were established, and a new research and laboratory wing was added in 1950.

    Image of Convalescent and Services Pavilion.
    Image of Convalescent and Services Pavilion.

    The Hospital Grows

    In the 1970s, pediatric care in Cincinnati was consolidated at the Children’s Hospital. Five previously independent organizations became affiliated with the hospital, and the hospital’s name was changed to Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The Convalescent and Services Pavilion (now Location E) was built to house the new programs. It opened in 1973.

    Growth continued in the 1980s with opening of the Ambulatory Services Building (now Location C) in 1983. In 1987, Cincinnati Children’s opened the nation’s first freestanding pediatric surgery satellite center, in Mason, OH. Today Cincinnati Children’s has satellite locations across Greater Cincinnati. The newest, in Liberty Township, opened in 2008 and includes a 24-hour emergency department, 12 inpatient beds and eight operating rooms.

    Image of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center today.
    Image of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center today.

    A National Leader

    The hospital changed its name to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2002. The pace of growth dramatically increased in the new millennium with expansion of clinical and research programs, staff and facilities. Today Cincinnati Children’s is one of the largest, most comprehensive and respected pediatric hospitals and research centers in the United States. It also has become a national leader in quality improvement. 

    More than 125 years after its founding, Cincinnati Children’s is the region’s first choice for pediatric care, while its services for children with rare and complex conditions attract patients from around the world.

  • Major Medical Breakthroughs

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    The Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation opened in 1931. From early work on congenital birth defects, the heart-lung machine and Albert Sabin’s oral polio vaccine to today’s discoveries in genetics and disease treatment, Cincinnati Children’s has been a leader in medical innovation for more than 80 years.

    • Research Foundation scientists investigate the effect of high-altitude flight on humans. Scientists develop a method of preserving and transporting whole blood, which saves lives on the battlefields of World War II.
    • Josef Warkany, MD, links certain birth defects to nutritional deficiencies. This work forms a foundation for the field of teratology, the study of birth defects.
    • Samuel Kaplan, MD, James Helmsworth, MD, and Leland Clark, PhD, develop the first functional heart-lung machine, opening the door to open heart surgery.
    • Albert Sabin, MD, develops the oral polio vaccine. Worldwide adoption of the vaccine nearly eliminates the crippling disease.
    • William Schubert, MD, and John Partin, MD, identify the unique morphological symptoms of Reye syndrome, a deadly disease that can damage the liver and brain.
    • Scientists led by Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, identify and clone proteins in surfactant, a substance that’s critical to lung function. This work made possible the routine use of surfactant therapy to improve lung function in premature babies.
    • Scientists identify – and find a way to treat – enzyme defects that cause liver failure.
    • Researchers create a compound that appears to provide total protection against the genital herpes virus.
    • Researchers discover that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke and childhood exposure to lead account for more than one-third of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cases among children in the United States.
    • A rotavirus vaccine developed and tested by two Cincinnati Children’s researchers is approved for use in Mexico in 2004. Since then, it has been approved in more than 100 countries around the world, including the United States.
  • A Better Future

    The long history of scientific exploration at Cincinnati Children’s is on course to thrive well into the future. Learn about the current research in our institutes, divisions and centers that is improving the lives of children. Also, keep up with our research news and publications.

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