In 1941, four local industry leaders conceived the idea of a fully equipped hospital for company employees. The original founders included Arthur Temple, Sr., President of Southern Pine Lumber Company; W.C. Trout, President of Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company; E.L. Kurth, President of Southland Paper Mills; and Col. Cal C. Chambers, President of Texas Foundries. As the idea developed, 10 other businesses and industries joined resources raising $1 million to build a non-profit hospital to meet the healthcare needs of the Deep East Texas area. From the very beginning, St. Luke's Health-Memorial was historically rooted in the community.
During the development of St. Luke's Health-Memorial, it was discovered that federal funds were available to help with the costs. The money was turned down because the local community did not want to rely on any government funds. St. Luke's Health-Memorial was built entirely without local or federal tax money and has never been the county hospital. In 1949, a local newspaper article reveals how unique St. Luke's Health-Memorial is within the healthcare industry: "Memorial is believed to be the only hospital in America which has been built by cooperative financing of local industries.”
The hospital officially opened on National Hospital Day in 1949 with 102 beds. This opening was a sensational event for East Texas. The keynote speaker was Texas Governor Beauford Jester and the ribbon, which was draped across the front entrance, was cut by E.L. Kurth, the first President of the Board of Directors. The hospital’s Kurth Tower is named in his honor.
In 1949, there were 48 practicing physicians in Lufkin. Today there are more than 150 physicians representing all major specialties. An interesting tradition began in Lufkin during those early years. Every year the community would celebrate National Hospital Day in conjunction with the anniversary of the opening of St. Luke's Health-Memorial. As part of that celebration, a feature news article on Ms. Lynda Wimp, who was one of the first babies born at the hospital, was written. One such article read, “While the nation is observing National Hospital Day, we folks in Lufkin will be placing a special emphasis of our own on the occasion which marks the anniversary of our great Memorial Hospital.” Four years later, another feature article—again picturing Lynda Wimp—described the community’s love of their hospital: “…a paper full of pictures could not do full credit to Memorial Hospital nor to the important place it holds in the progress and welfare of our county.” Again in 1961, the headline of this day was “Lynda Wimp Makes Hospital Tour/Memorial Has 12th Birthday.” In 1989, when the hospital celebrated its 40th anniversary, Lynda once again was present.
Another notable Linda in the hospital’s history is Ms. Linda Pounds Green. Linda was the very first baby born at St. Luke's Health-Memorial in 1949. In 1970, Linda gave birth to daughter Nicole at St. Luke's Health-Memorial. And in 1996, Linda’s granddaughter Lauren was born at St. Luke's Health-Memorial.
From the beginning, St. Luke's Health-Memorial has been growing. But being a nonprofit organization, these projects have always been dependent on philanthropic contributions. In 1958, Louis Calder, a personal friend to Mr. Kurth and president of New York’s Perkins-Goodwin Company, donated $200,000 to the building of a new wing, which would add 31 beds. The wing was dedicated in his name.
Also in 1958, the first LVN Nursing Program in this area was opened. The program consisted of 460 hours of classroom study and 34 weeks of clinicals, all completed within the hospital. The first class graduated 18 nurses under the direction of Ms. Virginia Page. Quality was emphasized from the beginning with the 4th class achieving the second highest-grade average in the state. Out of 700 students, Ms. Nina Ruby (one of the early graduates) scored the highest in the state. In 1968, Angelina College was founded and the LVN school was transferred to the college campus.
In the same year 1958, Dr. Ernest Seitz organized the first class of the Radiologic Technology School of Memorial. He taught the courses three nights a week. The school was approved by the Joint Commission and graduates were allowed to take the American Radiologic Technology exam.
As a community leader, St. Luke's Health-Memorial has over the years often been first to bring services or technology to the area. For example, in 1959 the first cancer radiation treatment center was opened. The center was home to the first “above ground” cobalt machine in Texas. Now patients in deep East Texas did not have to travel to Houston for radiation therapy.
In 1964, the second floor of the Calder Wing was completed. This brought the hospital’s bed total to 160 Beds. Also in 1964, in what would later be called the Doctor’s Tower, the second floor was completed as the new obstetrical unit.
In 1967, the first psychiatric unit in East Texas for private patients was housed in the newly completed fourth floor of the Doctor’s Tower. Also at that time, the employee parking lot across Frank Street was added to allow more visitor parking near the hospital. Today the hospital offers valet parking for hospital visitors.
In 1970, respiratory therapy was a new science. In fact there were only 1,000 known registered respiratory therapists. And St. Luke's Health-Memorial was once again on the cutting edge by opening the first Respiratory Therapy department in the area. By 1987, the hospital had its own Respiratory Therapy school based within the hospital. In 1990 the school was transferred to Angelina College. Today, 90 percent of the RT’s working in the Lufkin/Nacogdoches area were trained by the program started at St. Luke's Health-Memorial.
In 1972, the Doctor’s Tower was completed providing a new orthopedic wing on the 5th floor, a 12 bed ICCU on the 6th floor, and new surgical facilities on the 7th floor. The new surgical suites incorporated piped in anesthetics — an innovation for the area. The local newspaper touted, “The new seventh floor addition offers Lufkin and all of East Texas the most complete and most modern surgical department in the state.” This also gave St. Luke's Health-Memorial the distinction of having the tallest building in Angelina County — which is still true today.
In 1974, Ms. Joan Duncan organized the first group of hospital auxiliary. They opened the gift shop that year. Today, hospital volunteers work in the gift shop, at Registration in Admissions, at the Information Desk, in the ICCU/Surgery waiting room, in the Emergency Department, in Patient Visitation, and in the Temple Cancer Center. Over the years, the hospital auxiliary through fund raisers and gift shop proceeds have made considerable contributions to improving patient care at St. Luke's Health-Memorial. The hospital auxiliary is truly one of St. Luke's Health-Memorial’s finest traditions.
December 7, 1975, saw completion of Phase II on the construction plan, including the new Temple Laboratory and classrooms. Also in 1975 with the completion of Phase II, a new Emergency Care Unit was added.
In 1975, Ed Terrill joined St. Luke's Health-Memorial as Chief of Security. As the health system grew, so did the need for security. Today, the Security Services provide twenty-four hour coverage. And in 1975, the new north wing (which later would become the Kurth Tower) was completed housing a new basement storage facility, kitchen and cafeteria, with a Women’s Wing on the second floor. This brought St. Luke's Health-Memorial up to 273 beds.
The Henderson Kidney Dialysis Center was dedicated in November of 1981. This was the first free standing dialysis unit in Deep East Texas. In 1994, with a foundation grant of $342,000, St. Luke's Health-Memorial renovated the Dialysis Center adding a full compliment of state-of-the-art dialysis equipment.
In 1982, full body computerized tomography (CT Scan) was added to St. Luke's Health-Memorial’s diagnostic capability. With the opening of Kurth Tower in 1983, 78 beds were added on the third, fourth, and fifth floors. The patient rooms on the second floor East and West Wings were converted to offices and departments.
If it could be said that I am leaving a legacy, it would not be the bricks, buildings, and equipment, . . . No, the legacy I leave is the spirit of sacrifice, cooperation and team-work of the people that have made Memorial Hospital what it is today — a caring island of humanity for all our neighbors.
Horace Cardwell, former administrator
In 1985, Mr. Horace Cardwell retired after 37 years of leadership as the administrator of Memorial Hospital. Mr. Cardwell came to Lufkin in 1948 from Houston’s Herman Hospital. He was a 1941 graduate of Texas A&M & served in both the Pacific and European theatres. Upon arrival to Lufkin in 1948, the local paper listed one of his initial priorities as the “employing of a 100-man staff” for the new hospital. St. Luke's Health-Memorial today employs over 1600 people. In his departing statement, Mr. Cardwell said, “If it could be said that I am leaving a legacy, it would not be the bricks, buildings, and equipment, . . . No, the legacy I leave is the spirit of sacrifice, cooperation and team-work of the people that have made Memorial Hospital what it is today — a caring island of humanity for all our neighbors.”
The 80's were indeed a time of change for St. Luke's Health-Memorial. In 1985 for the first time Memorial Hospital changed its name to Memorial Medical Center of East Texas. The hospital was beginning to make the transition to a regional medical center. As a result of a $2.8M T.L.L. Temple Foundation Grant, the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center was constructed in 1989 to bring the most sophisticated radiation treatment technology to the East Texas community. This was the first linear accelerator and only one of its kind within a 100-mile radius. The center now has two linear accelerators, plus the latest in technological advancements, such as the Anatom-E information systems and IMRT planning, PET/CT scanning, and digital mammography. The quality of treatment provided here rivals that of any major cancer center.
Also in 1989, St. Luke's Health-Memorial was instrumental in bringing the first VA Clinic to the deep East Texas area. Now, veterans in the area are served locally without having to drive to Houston or Shreveport. The clinic's original property and building were donated by St. Luke's Health-Memorial — another example of the hospital giving back to the East Texas region.
Another first, in 1989, was the introduction of laser surgery to East Texas. The W. Temple Webber Magnetic Resonance Imaging Center was established in 1993 with a $2.8 M foundation grant, the largest ever received by St. Luke's Health-Memorial up to that time. Before the center was opened, MRI’s were available only in the larger cities or through a mobile service on certain days of the week.
As the decade of the 1990's progressed, St. Luke's Health-Memorial’s community continued to grow beyond Angelina County. To reflect its broader focus Memorial Medical Center became Memorial Health System of East Texas.
Wilson McKewen Rehabilitation Center, located on Highway 59 South, merged with St. Luke's Health-Memorial in 1992. Now known as the St. Luke's Health-Memorial Outpatient Therapy Center, this center uses state-of-the-art equipment to administer exercise, ambulation training, and rehabilitation programs designed to overcome the effects of muscular, skeletal, and neurological disorders in adults and children. Also in 1992, St. Luke's Health-Memorial opened an Inpatient Rehabilitation unit — a multi-disciplinary program created to help those who have suffered a debilitating injury reach their potential for a quality lifestyle. Aligned with the Inpatient Rehab Unit, the Industrial Rehab Program also initiated in 1992, is specially designed to help employers with employment screenings and to help injured employees return to the job as quickly as possible.
Through a joint effort between St. Luke's Health-Memorial and Hospice in the Pines, the Joe W. Elliott Hospitality House was opened in 1994. Foundation funds built this 20 guest-room facility designed to provide a comfortable, friendly place to stay, primarily for cancer patients and their families undergoing treatments at the Temple Cancer Center. The property for this facility was donated by St. Luke's Health-Memorial.
In November of 1994, St. Luke's Health-Memorial opened the Horace C. Polk Jr. Regional Diabetes Center — the first diabetic education center in Angelina County. The Polk Education Center is located on the first floor of the new Health Care Plaza. Renamed in 2010, the Polk Education Center, promotes healthy lifestyles for those suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
In the early 90's, increasing pressure to reduce healthcare costs made it necessary to find innovative ways to meet the needs of critically ill long term patients. In response to this need in 1993, Memorial Specialty Hospital was created. St. Luke's Health-Memorial Specialty Hospital was a separately licensed long-term acute care facility dedicated to the care of the critically ill patient who requires an average length of stay of 25 days or longer. Having this facility enabled St. Luke's Health-Memorial to give intensive care for an extended time to patients who needed it. St. Luke's Health-Memorial Specialty Hospital was a good example of how the system adapted to the changing healthcare reimbursement environment.
In an effort to grow its footprint and to reach out to underserved areas within East Texas, St. Luke's Health-Memorial opened a Homecare office in Livingston in 1995. Meanwhile in 1996, St. Luke's Health-Memorial continued to diversify services and expand its role as the largest independent health system in Deep East Texas by acquiring San Augustine Memorial Hospital and a San Augustine Healthcare Clinic.
A 22-bed acute care hospital, St. Luke's Health-Memorial San Augustine offers emergency medical care and a comprehensive diagnostic program, with CT and MRI scanning and digital mammography. In January of 1998, ground was broken in San Augustine for a $3 million expansion and renovation of the medical center.
In 1996, a 42-acre site was purchased in Livingston to construct a new hospital. Today that property is home to St. Luke's Health-Memorial Livingston. Through expansion efforts, this facility now has the capability of housing up to 200 patients. Today, St. Luke's Health-Memorial serves a thirteen county region with its hospitals and outpatient clinics.
In November 1996, ground was broken for the new $20.5 million Memorial Healthcare Plaza in Lufkin. And in 1997, a neurosurgery program was added to Angelina County for the first time. Dr. Stig Peitersen, a first generation American from Denmark, joined our community completing the full spectrum of medical specialties.
In 1997, St. Luke's Health-Memorial assumed management of the Angelina County & Cities Health District in an attempt to reach the medically under-served residents of Angelina County. In 1999, a new facility was constructed off Hill Street in Lufkin.
In December 1998, St. Luke's Health-Memorial celebrated the opening of the new Memorial Healthcare Plaza. The Plaza honors three outstanding Lufkinites with special facilities: The J.C.Clement MD, Health Center, Horace M. Cardwell Professional Building, and the Horace C. Polk, Jr. Education Center. At the grand opening, Dr. Clement’s family participated in the dedication ceremonies, as did Mr. Arthur Temple Jr. and his son Buddy, Mr. Ray Polk, Mr. Gary Whatley, and the US Surgeon General & Asst Secretary of Health, Dr. David Satcher.
In 2004, The Temple Imaging Center was opened on the St. Luke's Health-Memorial campus offering the latest in diagnostic testing. Today, the center offers the most advanced imaging technology, including CT scanning, PET/CT scanning, Open Bore MRI, and digital mammography. Also, during that time the system opened the Medical Arts Pavilion, a 65,000 square foot medical office building that is located on the St. Luke's Health-Memorial Lufkin campus.
In 2007, St. Luke's Health-Memorial Livingston opened two of six floors in its new bed tower. These floors are home to medical surgical rooms and a new intensive care unit. With the capacity to open 200 additional patient rooms, the 160,000-square-foot tower was designed by local physicians and nurses to be an active part of a patient’s healing process. From the lighting to the carpeting, wood flooring, paint and new bedding, nurses and physicians designed a facility to maximize the healing process.
Also in 2007, the Livingston hospital cut the ribbon on a new multi-million dollar Medical Arts Pavilion located adjacent to the hospital.
In 2009, St. Luke's Health-Memorial opened the doors to the area's first and only dedicated heart and stroke care facility. The $48 million Heart and Stroke Center became home to a new 28-bed progressive care unit, 26-bed ICU, 32-bed emergency department—the largest in the area—and a dedicated cardiovascular suite complete with three cath labs and two operating rooms. Following the opening of this impressive six story tower, St. Luke's Health-Memorial earned the Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval for stroke care and became the only certified primary stroke care facility in Deep East Texas.
In 2014, the Board of Directors recognized the changing landscape of the healthcare industry and ownership of the four-hospital Memorial system was transferred to Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) on June 1. As part of CHI’s new brand strategy and identity to link its facilities across the nation, Memorial Health System of East Texas officially changed its name to St. Luke's Health-Memorial. Branding under St. Luke’s Health recognizes all of the possibilities for bringing new, innovative health care to East Texas through the national resources and faith-based mission of CHI, and the leading-edge technology of St. Luke’s, including its relationships with the Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Heart® Institute.
St. Luke’s Health-Memorial officially assumed operations of Altus Emergency Center, the free-standing ER located next to Walmart and Sam’s Club in 2017. The facility was rebranded as the St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Emergency Center and is the only hospital-based off campus emergency center in the area. In the same year, board members and hospital leadership cut the ribbon on a $10 million Emergency Department in Livingston. The 23,500-square-feet facility includes 16 exam rooms, 3 trauma bays, and adjacent radiology, ultrasound and CT rooms. The ED also has designated areas for disaster response and decontamination. The large front waiting room includes a children’s nook with kid-sized furniture and activities.
On July 1, 2018, St. Luke's Health transferred ownership of Memorial Specialty Hospital to Post Acute Medical (PAM), a specialty healthcare company focused on providing high-quality, post-acute care to patients and their families through a multi-state system of long-term acute care hospitals, acute rehabilitation hospitals and satellite outpatient centers. Now operating as PAM Specialty Hospital of Lufkin, LLC, the 26-bed separately licensed long-term acute care hospital, conveniently remains on the campus of St. Luke’s Health-Memorial Lufkin on the 5th and 6th floors.
The history of St. Luke's Health-Memorial has been one of phenomenal growth and change. And, the health system’s achievements are the result of the vision that the hospital’s founding members had in 1949 — a healthcare facility to serve all of the people in Deep East Texas.
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