City Hospital Becomes University Hospital

The $100,000 bequest from Gazaway Bugg Lamar “to establish and sustain one or more hospitals for the colored persons” in Savannah and Augusta was certainly generous. However, in the early 1890s, City Hospital leaders were stymied to learn that much of the funding was wrapped up in litigation and couldn’t be used. Only about $7,500 could be extracted, and though Augusta’s City Council added $8,000 to cover both building costs and medical equipment, the underfunded Lamar Hospital would be built “in the nature of cutting the garment to fit the cloth.” Dr. Doughty himself served as architect, and the structure was built of wood instead of brick.

On Jan. 11, 1911, Lamar Hospital burned down. All 38 patients and most of the equipment survived the blaze, but according to the book History of Augusta Nursing, “the fire added momentum to the movement for a new hospital that would, for the first time, offer facilities for white and black patients that were separate yet contained within one complex.”

Adding to this momentum was a 1910 report on the state of American medical institutions by educator Abraham Flexner. The so-called Flexner Report was scathing, citing Lamar Hospital’s lack of cleanliness and calling the Medical College a “low-grade institution.” “There is no possibility of developing there a medical school controlled by the university,” the report stated and recommended that the University of Georgia “snap the slender thread; the medical school will not long survive the amputation.”

Catalyzed into action by both the Flexner Report and the Lamar fire, the City Council made an agreement with the Medical College of Georgia to replace the inadequate hospital and medical school, though the details of this arrangement were complicated: The college would lease 45 acres from the old Augusta Orphan Asylum, and then sublease land to the city for the construction of a modern hospital. Control over this new hospital was given to a six-person committee that included the dean and two other Medical College professors. Under this arrangement, the college agreed to continue treating the sick poor at the hospital.

On July 21, 1911, the Medical College successfully thwarted Flexner’s prophecy and became the official medical school of the University of Georgia. City Hospital—its clinical extension—would, in turn, be renamed University Hospital.

On June 1, 1915, the new 275-bed University Hospital building was dedicated. The singular but segregated structure that included two wings – one for each race.

With growth and progress came increased political entanglements. City Council soon gave the Board of Directors complete control over the operations of University Hospital, which “was destined to become a political football,” according to the book History of the Medical College of Georgia. Nevertheless, the linked institutions had emerged from a rough patch that might have seen the demise of both the hospital and the medical school. A new University Hospital had arrived.

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