A 2006 ceremony celebrated groundbreaking.
When told in 1956 that the new director of the Department of Pediatrics, Robert Cooke, M.D., was going to build a new children’s hospital at Johns Hopkins to replace its aging 1912 Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children, pediatric psychiatrist Leo Kanner famously replied, “That’s what they told me in 1929.”
That was around the time he was recruited to Johns Hopkins to develop the nation’s first program in child psychiatry. The opening of The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center in May 2012 fulfilled promises to a new generation of Johns Hopkins faculty and staff for a modern facility that matched the caliber of medicine practiced in the building that Cooke, indeed, helped make a reality in 1964: The Children’s Medical & Surgical Center (CMSC). Bloomberg Children’s Center grew out of a need recognized decades earlier, too.
A model of its time begins to show its age
By the 1980’s, the practice of pediatric medicine, in all its modern complexities, had outgrown the space allotted and designed for in the CMSC, a model of its time. Dramatic advances in care and technology were necessitating ongoing renovations and retrofits of outmoded patient rooms and units.
At an annual leadership strategy meeting at Johns Hopkins in the early 1990s, Director of Child Life Jerriann Wilson illustrated the struggles families, too, faced in CMSC. She presented a video of its cramped and noisy units and semi-private patients rooms, never designed for the modern volume of medical technology and monitors, or to accommodate families’ emotional needs for privacy or control in the hospital environment.
“For us, it was like a light bulb came on, and we saw that we had to act,” says Johns Hopkins Children’s Administrator Edward Chambers, recalling the video, “and to find funding to make it possible.”
So he and Hopkins Children’s Center Director Frank Oski, a fierce advocate for a new facility, set out to find potential sponsors. Oski’s efforts were cut short by cancer, which forced upon him an early retirement in 1995. Johns Hopkins Pediatric Hematologist George Dover became Oski’s successor in 1996.
A plan takes shape
Dover, who had trained and practiced in CMSC, was well aware of its physical shortcomings by any modern American standard. A year later, he and the new chief executive for Johns Hopkins Medicine, Edward D. Miller, led an institution-wide push to engage a planner and develop a specific scenario for a new children’s hospital. Locations were generally agreed on and incorporated into a Campus Redevelopment Plan.
Illustrative of the famous Johns Hopkins collaborations in adult and pediatric medicine, the new Children’s Center would share its foundations with a new adjacent adult cardiac and critical care tower. In 2006 ground was broken. (Photo of ceremony above) The next year, construction began on a parcel of Johns Hopkins property, near the footprint of the old Harriet Lane Home.
Editor’s note: Six years later, on May 1, 2012, The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center and the Sheikh Zayed Tower for adults opened on the Johns Hopkins East Baltimore campus, 1800 Orleans Street.