Clara Ford & The School of Nursing

This week we celebrate the role of nursing in health care and at Henry Ford Hospital.

Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1927

Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1927, courtesy of the Conrad R. Lam Archives.

In previous blog posts, I’ve described the creation of the Henry Ford Medical Group, an idea that Henry Ford moved forward as influenced by meeting with the Mayo brothers.

Many of Henry’s other ideas about health care and the medical practices needed to support Detroit during Henry Ford Hospital’s formative years were directly influenced by his wife, Clara.

Most importantly, Clara was the major advocate of developing excellence in nursing that continues to this day at Henry Ford.

Being a great believer in the caring nature of nursing and its pivotal role in the medical care provided to patients, Clara was the driving force in developing the Henry Ford School of Nursing and Hygiene on the hospital campus.

The school included two new buildings, both designed by renowned architect, Albert Kahn: the 300-room Clara Ford Nurses Home (today’s Clara Ford Pavilion) and the Education Building (now home to the Innovation Institute).

Clara also worked closely with a designer to ensure that both the private rooms and the common areas were outfitted with precision.

Most notably, the parlor of the Clara Ford Nurses Home was elegantly designed with ornate chandeliers.

To get a feel for how magnificent the parlor, take a look at the 1978 film, “The Betsy,” which was filmed, in part, on the first floor of Clara Ford Nurses Home. In addition, the Education Building featured classrooms, a pool, squash courts and a gymnasium with a stage for special events.

In 1925, the School enrolled its first class of 93 students. Two classes were admitted each year, one in January and the other in September. The class size was limited to 100 students.

Women came from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe to attend the prestigious 28-month program. Students accepted into the tuition-free school lived free-of-charge at the Clara Ford Nurses Home. Continue reading

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Celebrating a “Century of Life” at Detroit Historical Museum

It’s one thing to look at photos and read about our history.

It’s quite another to have the opportunity to walk through the past 10 decades and experience our institution’s driving, sustaining force in clinical care, research, medical education and innovation.

In celebration of the 100-year anniversary, the Detroit Historical Museum has offered the opportunity to do just that with the opening of the special exhibit “Henry Ford Health System: 100 Years Measured in Life.”

On display in the museum’s Community Gallery through Jan. 3, 2016, the exhibit chronicles the birth and development of Henry Ford Hospital, one Detroit’s best-known and one of the nation’s most-respected healthcare institutions.

The exhibit begins in 1915 with auto pioneer Henry Ford taking control of the stalled 48-bed Detroit General Hospital project (today’s Henry Ford Hospital).

Nancy Schlichting, Henry Ford III, the great-great grandson of our hospital's founder, and I tour the exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Nancy Schlichting, Henry Ford III, the great-great grandson of our hospital’s founder, and I tour the exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum.

It tracks the health system’s century of growth with 100 stories of transforming health and life through medical innovation and unwavering dedication to quality and community.

I had the opportunity to visit the exhibit last week.

I was blown away by the experience – the attention to detail, the historic artifacts, incredible images and interactive displays. Continue reading

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Henry Ford Cardiologist was First Voice Against the Tuskegee Study

The headline in the research journal was so startling that Dr. Irwin Schatz had to read it several times before it sunk in:

“The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis: 30 years of Observation”

The year was 1964 and Dr. Schatz was a young cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital when he came upon the study.

Dr. Irwin Schatz (Photo courtesy of The John A. Burns School of Medicine)

Dr. Irwin Schatz (Photo courtesy of The John A. Burns School of Medicine)

Little did he know at the time that his subsequent actions and response to the study would become a lasting legacy, a point remembered and celebrated in pieces written this week in the New York Times and Washington Post to mark Dr. Schatz’s recent passing at the age of 83.

Dr. Schatz was called the “first, lonely voice” to object to the now-infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama.

Only four years out of medical school and with limited resources, Dr. Schatz was truly courageous in his actions.

Objecting to the experiments on uneducated black men of the Tuskegee, Dr. Schatz wrote a scathing letter to the study authors at the U.S. Public Health Service.

While there was no treatment for syphilis when the study began in 1932, there certainly was a proven, effective treatment available to patients when the study was published – a point strongly noted in the letter Dr. Schatz wrote to the study authors in 1965.

The study had deliberately withheld treatment from the men – and in most cases, the men were not even told that they had this potentially fatal disease, passing it along to women and children. Continue reading

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Model G Has Patients Covered at Henry Ford Hospital

A few years ago, I blogged about my MRI experience as a patient at Henry Ford Hospital. I called the blog post “Tweets from Inside the MRI,” as I recanted my appointment in short, 40-character quips or “tweets.”

As you may recall, several of my “tweets” in that blog post were devoted to the much maligned hospital gown:

Dr. John Popovich
Are any hospital gowns made for someone over 6 feet?


Dr. John Popovich @docinthed
Need two gowns, you don’t want to see what’s behind #youtube


Dr. John Popovich
Who doesn’t look good in a thigh-length gown, black socks and loafers? Eat your heart out #GeorgeClooney!


All kidding aside, it was a great experience – the physicians, nurses, support staff and technicians were absolutely first rate.

But that hospital gown.

Well, now we have a solution that, thanks to the Henry Ford Innovation Institute. Continue reading

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Our First Female Physicians

World War II was a turning point for women in the workforce of the United States.

Rosie the RiveterThe now-iconic image of Rosie the Riveter was emblematic of the patriotic need for women to enter the industrial labor workforce due to widespread male enlistment in the war.

Between 1940 and 1945, females in the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37 percent. By 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the home.

But opportunity wasn’t limited to factories; hospitals, too, felt the impact of war.

At Henry Ford Hospital, many staff joined the war effort in some capacity – 182 physicians, 105 nurses and 60 other personnel members.

While the decline in hospital workforce during World War II did not have the same effect as World War I (where the hospital was left unable to function and turned over to the Army for use, as previously discussed on Doc in the D), it undoubtedly had an impact on hospital operations.

Most notably, the war created a tremendous nursing shortage.

By 1942, roughly 10,000 nurses across the country served in the war. And more were still needed at home and abroad.

The war years also opened up other medical positions for women – many of whom joined the Henry Ford Hospital staff. Continue reading

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Early Discoveries: Ormond’s Disease

Medicine is flush with eponymous diseases named in honor of the individual who described it or died from the condition.

Dr. John K. Ormond. (From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System, ID=04-045)

Dr. John K. Ormond. (From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System, ID=04-045)

  • Huntington’s disease for Dr. George Huntington, who diagnosed himself, his father and grandfather with this neurodegenerative disease
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, named in honor of the famous baseball player who succumbed to the disease in 1941
  • Parkinson’s disease for Dr. James Parkinson, an apothecary surgeon and political activist who first described the “paralysis agitans” condition that would later bear his name
  • And, Ormond’s Disease for John K. Ormond, the first chief of urology at Henry Ford Hospital, who established the clinical and pathological entity of idiopathic retroperitoneal fibrosis

Ormond’s Disease was one of the many early discoveries at Henry Ford Hospital that extended beyond medical devices to include new diseases.

Dr. Ormond was among the first wave of Henry Ford Hospital physicians, joining the staff shortly after Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Roy McClure in 1916.

By 1926, Dr. Ormond officially established the Department of Urology and became the department’s chief.

But he would ultimately leave his mark in medicine with a discovery in 1948. Continue reading

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Medical Breakthroughs: Heparin, Penicillin & Heart Surgery

Henry Ford Hospital was built upon innovation and creating new paths – instead of following those already well worn – to transform health care, medical delivery and treatment.

Dr. Conrad R. Lam demonstrating the six finger glove. From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System. ID=04-041. Credit: Detroit Free Press

Dr. Conrad R. Lam demonstrating the six finger glove. From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System. ID=04-041. Credit: Detroit Free Press

Inquisitiveness, reflection and research have been characteristics of the staff that continues in the Henry Ford Health System today.

It started at the very beginning, in 1914, with Henry Ford’s plans for a closed medical group, standardized patient fees, private rooms with adjoining bathrooms, natural lighting operating rooms, and many other structural and operational advancements.

By the 1930s, Henry Ford Hospital had earned its reputation for innovative medical treatment and research, “whether the patient was rich and famous or penniless and unknown.”

Our first Surgeon-in-Chief, Dr. Roy D. McClure, along with his mentee Dr. Conrad R. Lam, was a driving force in early research to advance medicine.

In 1937, Dr. McClure received a prestigious award from the French Adaemie du Chirugie in France for his work that advanced the understanding of treatment for burn patients.

Of note, Baseball Hall-of-Famer and Detroit Tiger manager and player Gordon (Mickey) Cochrane accompanied Dr. McClure on the European trip. (Cochrane had been treated by Dr. McClure for an illness, and the baseball player’s wife felt the trip would be good for him, particularly after doctors advised that he retire from the game following a serious injury.) Continue reading

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“Back to the Future” Part 3

In the final segment of our three-part vodcast series on the history of Henry Ford Hospital and Health System, HFHS CEO Nancy Schlichting and I discuss what’s ahead for Henry Ford and our goals for the future.

Undoubtedly, we believe our rich history will continue to inspire the future at Henry Ford – through cutting-edge medical innovations and collaborative partnerships, to our deep commitment to the city we’ve called home for 100 years, in good times and often challenging times.

Henry Ford stood with Detroit for 100 years and has proudly been a part of its resurrection – not only as a provider and beacon for what’s good about health care institutions, but also as a very strong economic engine to the city.

We certainly have a lot to look forward to as we look back on our incredible history in celebration of Henry Ford’s 100 Year Anniversary. Continue reading

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“Back to the Future” Part 2

In the second part of my three-part vodcast interview with Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting, we continue our discussion about the history of Henry Ford by taking a closer look the first physicians and nurses at Henry Ford Hospital.

Nancy and I talk about the formation of the Henry Ford Medical Group and the evolution of physician education and training, as well as our first physicians at Henry Ford Hospital – Physician-in-Chief Dr. Frank Sladen and Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Roy McClure.

We again highlight Clara Ford’s important influence during the hospital’s formative years, and her great belief in the caring nature of nursing and its pivotal role in the medical care provided to patients.

She was a driving force in developing the School of Nursing on the hospital campus in 1925. Continue reading

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The Cornerstone of Henry Ford Hospital

When Henry Ford took control of the stalled Detroit General Hospital project in 1914, he was left with an incomplete building on the hospital campus. It was an empty shell with no windows, battered by Michigan’s harsh weather.

The unfinished Patient Services Building, c. 1914. (From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System. ID=01-014)

The unfinished Patient Services Building, c. 1914. (From the Conrad R. Lam Collection, Henry Ford Health System. ID=01-014)

Regardless, Ford was determined to complete the building and assigned the task to his personal secretary Ernest G. Liebold, who became the hospital’s first chief administrator.

With no previous hospital experience, Leibold set out to bring in new architects and quickly finish the facility, and to plan the future.

The original hospital building was very small; it was only designed to house 90 beds.

Liebold was concerned the hospital would fail to meet the great health care needs of the city – or be able to operate in the black – with so few beds, especially since the on-campus power plant, service building and kitchen were capable of serving a hospital of 500.

Prior to completion of the first patient care building, patients were admitted to an open ward in the basement of the current “M” unit, which was to become the private-room building of Henry Ford Hospital.

As you may recall from a prior Doc in the D blog post on this topic, most patients admitted to the basement ward were afflicted with a variety of substance abuse issues, many with serious consequences of narcotics. The first such patient was admitted on July 13, 1915.

On Oct. 1, 1915 the hospital beds in the private-room building of Henry Ford Hospital was completed. The first patient admitted had a diagnosis of erysipelas of the upper extremity, essentially a bacterial infection of the soft tissues. Continue reading

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