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Henry Ford Hospital - Historical Highlights: 1915 - 1930s

History Collage 1

Captions 10s-30s

Pictured from left to right: The first hospital staff in 1916 - Bottom row from left: Dr. Charles H. Watt, Dr. Frank J. Sladen, Dr. Roy D. McClure, Ernest G. Liebold, John N.E. Brown, Dr. F. Janney Smith. Top row from left: Dr. Irvin L. Barclay, Dr. David R. Murchison, Dr. Russel Haden, unknown, Dr. John K. Ormond; Postcard of Henry Ford Hospital, c. 1930s; Dr. Roy D. McClure (second from left) in surgery, c.1925. All photos from the Conrad R. Lam Archives, Henry Ford Health System. 

Medical Milestones 1915 - 1930s


October 1 - Henry Ford Hospital was officially opened and the first patients were admitted to the 48-bed facility. It was one of the first U.S. hospitals to use a standard fee schedule and favor private or semi-private rooms over large wards. The original hospital building exists today as the M-Unit.

HFH was the first hospital in the country to form a closed, salaried medical staff. The group practice model was first scorned by the medical profession at large, but became gradually accepted.

The first five departments of the hospital included general medicine, general surgery, urology, cardio-respiratory, and gynecology.

Frank J. Sladen, M.D. was appointed physician-in-chief by Henry Ford in 1915. Dr. Sladen completed his residency at Johns Hopkins where he studied under the renowned physician and professor, Sir William Osler. Dr. Sladen was an invaluable member of the hospital staff, not only as a physician, but also as a medical educator, scholar, and administrator. He retired in 1952 but continued to consult for the hospital until 1973. 

1916 Roy D. McClure, M.D. becomes Henry Ford Hospital's first surgeon-in-chief. In May of 1961, his friend and colleague, Dr. Jean Paul Pratt, presented the Roy D. McClure Lecture highlighting Dr. McClure's early education and career as a surgeon. Read the lecture as reprinted in the Henry Ford Hospital Medical Bulletin, March 1966. 

Expansion began as the cornerstone for a new hospital building was laid and construction started under architect Albert Wood. 


Henry Ford offered the hospital to the City of Detroit to serve as an influenza ward to house the city's growing number of flu victims. Read more about the epidemic here.

The hospital's first pharmacist, D.H. Moats, was hired. Prior to this, Ernest G. Liebold, Henry Ford's personal assistant and first superintendent for Henry Ford Hospital, was responsible for purchasing medication.

1920 John G. Mateer, M.D. was recruited by Dr. Sladen to found the Division of Gasteroenterology. Dr. Mateer became a noted physician in the Detroit area who counted member of the Ford family among his patients. Dr. Mateer remained with the hospital for over 40 years.

December 1, 1921 - the new hospital building opened on West Grand Boulevard. The 50,000 square foot building featured four floors of inpatient rooms and a six-floor central unit.

The growing hospital staff included 100 doctors, 137 nurses, and 100 clerical staff.


On May 9, 1922 - the first baby was delivered at the hospital by Drs. Roger Siddall and William B. Thompson.

F. Janney Smith, M.D., Physician-in-Charge of the Cardio-Respiratory Division was among the first in the Detroit area to purchase and utilize the Cambridge String Galvanometer Electrocardiograph, an early EKG machine.

The Department of Pathology was officially founded by Dr. Frank Hartman. Dr. Hartman expanded the hospital's laboratory services in research and clinical testing. Dr. Russell Haden had served as the hospital's first pathologist from 1917-1923.


Henry Ford Hospital was one of the country's first general hospitals to establish a psychiatric unit within its walls. Thomas J. Heldt, M.D. developed the Division of Neuropsychiatry at the hospital. He began a new type of treatment that integrated psychiatry with general medicine. 

Dr. Howard P. Doub established the Radiological Department. The hospital invested in state-of-the-art equipment such as a fluoroscopic unit to support early diagnosis of disease.

The Department of Pediatrics was formally founded by Dr. Irvine P. McQuarrie.

1924 Edward C. Davison, M.D., under Roy D. McClure, M.D., developed the tannic acid method for the treatment of burns. The method was discontinued 20 years later due to evidence of liver toxicity. Read an article Dr. McClure, et al., published in the Annals of Surgery, 1944;120(3),387-398, regarding the discontinuation of the practice. (Link contains sensitive material.)  

Cancer research began at Henry Ford Hospital under Frank J. Sladen, M.D. and Roy D. McClure, M.D. who provided community lectures on the dangers of smoking in collaboration with the American Cancer Society. 

The Henry Ford School of Nursing and Hygiene (SONAH), founded by Clara Ford, enrolled its first class of 93 student nurses. Read more about SONAH.


"Collected Papers by the Staff of the Henry Ford Hospital 1915-1925" was published. The book described the early departments and research at the hospital. 

Albert S. Crawford, M.D. was the first Henry Ford Hospital neurosurgeon and founded the department in 1926. He headed this area for 27 years and fostered innovative research and designed surgical equipment to aid in patient care. 

1927 Henry Ford established Fordlandia, the Ford Motor Company's Rubber Plantations in Brazil. In 1928, Dr. Laurence S. Fallis, one of Henry Ford Hospital's first staff physicians, served as medical director at Fordlandia followed by Dr. Colin Beaton. In 1942, Dr. D. Emerick Szilagyi assumed the role of Fordlandia's only physician. He returned to the hospital in 1945 and became an internationally renowned vascular surgeon.
1928 Clyde I. Allen, M.D., head of Industrial Surgery, was the first to lead the hospital in emergency work by assisting the surrounding factories. Henry Ford Hospital had its own fleet of custom ambulances and staff doctors were driven to accident scenes to assist the injured. Patients would then be brought to the hospital for emergency surgery. Read about the hospital's first ambulance driver here.
1932 Dr. Elizabeth M. Yagle, a noted serologist and immunologist, was hired to head the serology laboratory. The scientist was known for collaborations with Henry Ford Hospital physicians and researchers on various projects and for her work with the Henry Ford Hospital School of Medical Technologists training program.
1936 The Department of Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat separated to form the Divisions of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology.

Henry Ford Hospital was designated as a center for graduate study. Work conducted in the laboratories for surgical fellows was credited toward a Master of Science degree at the University of Michigan.

Dr. C. Paul Hodgkinson began his career at Henry Ford Hospital. Dr. Hodgkinson was involved in research on early breast cancer detection and developed the "scarf technique" of placing a thin fabric between the doctor's hand and the breast which provided a more accurate breast exam. In 1958, Dr. Hodgkinson became chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  


Drs. Roy D. McClure and Frank R. Hartman worked on a photoelectric cell technique first developed in Germany. Later they joined Henry Ford Hospital's Vivian Gould Behrmann, Ph.D. on the development of the oxyhemograph, a device that recorded oxygen content in the blood during surgery. Charles F. Kettering, founder of General Motors Laboratories, later worked with the team on the photoelectric eye which attached to a patient's ear and would indicate oxygen levels in the blood during surgery. Read an article about this from the Chicago Tribune in 1949. 

The hospital began using heparin to treat patients postoperatively for thrombosis under the direction of Drs. Conrad R. Lam and Roy D. McClure. The study results are published in the Annals of Surgery, 1941;114(2):205-211.

Henry Ford Hospital provided $10,000 to establish the new Michigan Hospital Service, a forerunner to Blue Cross health insurance.