The Deaconess - A Specialty Hospital
The Deaconess established a permanent medical and surgical staff in 1922. The staff comprised of two surgeons; two physicians; assistant physicians and surgeons; consultants in specialty services such as neurology, radiology and ophthalmology; and 43 associate members. Principal surgeon Dr. Frank H. Lahey, who would later establish the Lahey Clinic, and principal physician Dr. Elliot P. Joslin, who would become a world leader in diabetes care, were among several physicians over time to establish specialty outpatient clinics. Because these clinics referred their patients primarily to the Deaconess for inpatient care, over time the Deaconess evolved as a specialty, rather than general hospital.
In 1927, the New England Deaconess Association opened the Palmer Memorial Hospital, which was dedicated to the treatment of cancer. At the time, few Boston hospitals accepted people with incurable cancer. The facility was named for Jennie C. Palmer, a woman who before dying of cancer in 1919 had urged her husband to build a hospital to care for people with terminal cancer. Palmer Hospital was dedicated to treatment through radiation and surgery, as well as care.
Over time, the Deaconess acquired physicians who specialized in thoracic surgery, cardiac surgery and cancer research. Although throughout its history, the Deaconess focused on patient care over medical education, it did have a tradition of specialty training. During the 1960s it expanded this teaching role and built an accredited residency program. That laid the foundation for a formal relationship with Harvard Medical School.