A History of Improving Care for All

Decades before Beth Israel Hospital and New England Deaconess Hospital came together as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, each was a leader in health care with a long history of innovation, patient-centered care and service to those in need. Through our combined efforts, our legacy has grown even stronger. 

Meet the people and read about the breakthroughs that have saved lives and advanced care for more than a century.

  1. 1896

    New England Deaconess Hospital (NEDH) opens 14 beds in a residential brownstone on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston.

  2. 1898

    The New England Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing graduates its first class, awarding degrees to three nurses, all deaconesses. Graduates would become legendary for specialty diabetes and surgical care.

  3. 1907

    NEDH relocates to the Longwood area near Harvard Medical School, constructing the 50-bed Deaconess Building.

  4. 1914

    A specialist in goiter and thyroid conditions, Frank H. Lahey, MD, (right) joins the NEDH surgical staff. He would later form Lahey Clinic and become a pioneer in the creation of multi-specialty group medical practice.

  5. 1915

    NEDH’s Brodbeck Cottage leads efforts in the care and teaching of patients with diabetes, and symbolizes the partnership between Elliott P. Joslin, MD, and NEDH. Here, NEDH nurses received specialized training in diabetic treatment, helping establish this site as one of the leading diabetes centers in the world.

  6. 1916

    Beth Israel Hospital (BIH) is dedicated on Townsend Street in Roxbury, with 45 beds.

  7. 1918

    The Beth Israel Hospital Training School for Nurses opens at the hospital’s Townsend Street location. Over time, graduates gained national recognition for compassionate care, expert training and contributions to medical advances.

  8. 1922

    Under the supervision of Elliott P. Joslin, MD, Howard Root, MD, administers the first insulin treatment in the United States at NEDH.

  9. 1927

    NEDH’s Palmer Memorial Hospital offers care for patients with cancer, one of the largest programs in the area dedicated to the treatment and research of cancer and other diseases thought to be incurable at the time.

  10. 1928

    BIH constructs its new Brookline Avenue facility, described as the most modern equipped Jewish hospital in the country.

  11. 1928

    BIH and Harvard Medical School form a teaching and research partnership, with Herrman Blumgart, MD, as director of medical research and head of the Harvard Teaching Service. Blumgart, a pioneer in diagnostic nuclear medicine, gains renown as both a clinician and a teacher.

  12. 1933

    At NEDH, Richard Overholt, MD, (right) performs the world’s first successful removal of a right lung on a patient with cancer. An anti-smoking pioneer, Overholt later persuaded the hospital to designate smoke-free areas on patient floors.

  13. 1941-45

    During World War II, many BIH and NEDH physicians, nurses and other staff take leave to serve the country, while junior staff assume major roles. Both hospitals also rely heavily on volunteers — such as the Gray Ladies, Red Cross and Male Volunteer Corps — to fill vital staffing needs.

  14. 1945

    Following the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, NEDH pathologist Shields Warren, MD, (right) heads the first comprehensive study of radioactive fallout on humans. He is later named the first director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s Division of Biology and Medicine.

  15. 1951

    The Cancer Research Institute is established at NEDH, the first research facility in New England devoted solely to the study of cancer. Senior scientist and pathologist Olive Gates, MD, (right) co-authors a number of published papers on the pathology of tumors and the effects of radiation on human cancer.

  16. 1952

    The transthoracic pacer, a noninvasive method for jump-starting the heart, is developed by Paul Zoll, MD, and his team at BIH. Zoll becomes known as the father of modern cardiac therapy.

  17. 1955

    Grete Bibring, MD, (right) is named psychiatrist-in-chief at BIH, and is later appointed the first female full clinical professor at Harvard Medical School.

  18. 1959

    Led by hematologist James Tullis, MD, (right) and his research team, NEDH becomes the first hospital in the nation to bank blood platelets for immediate transfusion. His later work lays the foundation for modern stem-cell collection and processing procedures.

  19. 1968

    BIH joins forces with The Dimock Center to address maternal and child health issues while improving the health of low-income, underserved populations.

  20. 1970

    BIH establishes its Division of Clinical Informatics and becomes a national leader in developing electronic hospital data systems under Warner Slack, MD, (near right) and Howard Bleich, MD, (far right). The division is one of the first at an academic medical center to focus on the use of computers for patient care, teaching and research.

  21. 1972

    BIH creates a Patient Bill of Rights under the direction of President Mitchell Rabkin, MD. This document is later used as a model for the Massachusetts Bill of Rights legislation of 1979.

  22. 1972

    Beth Israel Ambulatory Care is founded under the leadership of Thomas Delbanco, MD. It is among the first hospital-based primary care practices at an academic medical center in the country.

  23. 1973

    NEDH joins Harvard Surgical Service, establishing the hospital as an official member of the Harvard Medical School community. William McDermott, MD, the David W. and David Cheever Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, (right) serves as the service’s director at NEDH.

  24. 1974

    Research by NEDH physicians George Blackburn, MD, (far right) and Bruce Bistrian, MD, PhD, (near right) leads to the development of nutritionally complete medical “foods” administered intravenously. This innovation helps combat the nation’s alarmingly high malnutrition rate in patients who undergo general surgery.

  25. 1974

    NEDH begins a relationship with Fenway Community Health Center, well-known for its services in testing for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies, obstetrics and gynecology and mental health. The facility was a volunteer-led, free clinic for those who had trouble accessing health care due to sexual orientation, age and confidentiality issues.

  26. 1975

    BIH launches a primary nursing model under Chief Nurse Joyce Clifford, RN, PhD. The model is among the first in the U.S. at a large teaching hospital, and Clifford gains national recognition as an innovative nursing leader.

  27. 1975

    NEDH Department of Radiology is in the forefront of developing interventional imaging techniques for a variety of conditions that could not be treated surgically. Under the leadership of Mel Clouse, MD, the hospital undertakes pioneering work in CT angiography, intraoperative ultrasound, chemoembolization and ultrasound-guided cryosurgery.

  28. 1976

    One of the first academic gerontology programs in the U.S. is formally established at BIH, in partnership with Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged. The institutions are cited as national leaders in gerontology care, research and education.

  29. 1979

    BIH’s Interpreter Services opens with the hiring of a Russian-speaking interpreter, one of the first such services to be established in New England. Today, BIDMC offers interpreting services in more than 70 languages, with some 125,000 in-person patient encounters per year.

  30. Early 1980's

    NEDH and BIH are among the first hospitals in the nation to undertake research on causes and treatment of AIDS. NEDH offers a comprehensive approach to the disease through research, clinical trials and patient care.

  31. 1981

    William Silen, MD, chief of surgery at BIH from 1966 to 1994, publishes a landmark article on "the pathogenesis of stress ulceration of the stomach," identifying the role physiological conditions play in stress ulcer formation. A longtime editor of "Cope's Early Diagnosis of the Acute Abdomen," a vital text for generations of medical students, he would go on to serve as the first dean for Faculty Development and Diversity at Harvard Medical School.

  32. 1983

    An NEDH team led by Roger Jenkins, MD, performs the first successful liver transplant in New England.

  33. 1983

    The laboratory of BIH pathologist-in-chief Harold Dvorak, MD, (right), discovers vascular permeability factor (VPF), a protein that enables blood vessels to grow and thrive. This discovery forms the basis for the field of angiogenesis and ushers in a new way of treating cancer by starving the blood supply to tumors.

  34. 1984

    The work of BIH physicians and scientists results in the first baby successfully conceived by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in Massachusetts, born at the hospital on July 23.

  35. 1991

    BIH and NEDH go smoke-free, making them among the first wave of hospitals in the nation to do so. BIDMC later leads the way in designating all locations smoke-free, inside and out.

  36. 1991

    BIH’s Thomas Delbanco, MD, co-authors a landmark paper on medical error, setting the hospital at the forefront in health care transparency and encouraging a hospital safety movement that changed industry standards.

  37. 1993

    Beth Israel Hospital opens the Medical Care Center in Lexington, its first community-based outpatient facility for specialty care, followed in 1995 by the Medical Care Center North in Chelsea. Delivering advanced care where patients live has guided BIDMC’s community affiliations since. Known today as Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare Lexington and Chelsea, BIDMC’s offsite specialty care now includes a center in Chestnut Hill, opened in 2014.

  38. 1996

    The Carl J. Shapiro Clinical Center opens on the former site of Massachusetts College of Art, offering state-of-the-art ambulatory patient care services.

  39. 1996

    Scientist Kun Ping Lu, MD, PhD, (far right) discovers Pin 1, an enzyme that helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease. This work leads to current efforts by Lu and Xiao Zhen Zhou, MD, (near right) to develop antibody therapy to diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury, and to study Pin 1’s effect on the outcome of cancer treatments.

  40. 1996

    Beth Israel Hospital and New England Deaconess Hospital merge to form Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

  41. 1997

    The Community Care Alliance is formed and today includes Bowdoin Street Health Center, The Dimock Center, Fenway Health, Charles River Community Health, Outer Cape Health Services and South Cove Community Health Center.

  42. 1997

    Research by Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, (right), helps to establish the field of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and other forms of therapeutic noninvasive brain stimulation to treat neurological conditions and gain novel insights into the human brain. Through the Berenson-Allen Center, BIDMC becomes a leader in the use of noninvasive brain stimulation as a valuable tool for both clinical practice and research.

  43. 1998

    The first adult-to-adult living-donor liver transplant in New England is performed at BIDMC

  44. 2000

    The laboratory of David Avigan, MD, (right) begins work to develop a personalized cancer “vaccine” to condition the immune system to recognize cancers as foreign intruders and attack them accordingly. This vaccine has shown highly effective results in patients with multiple myeloma and acute leukemia and is leading to a first-of-its-kind national clinical trial, led by BIDMC.

  45. 2000

    BIDMC launches PatientSite, its secure patient portal that provides patients with access to their medication lists, lab and diagnostic test results, and other information.

  46. 2002

    Deaconess Glover Hospital in Needham becomes the first community hospital affiliate of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Its major clinical programs are integrated with counterparts at BIDMC.

  47. 2003

    The laboratory of Ananth Karumanchi, MD, discovers sFlt-1, a protein responsible for preeclampsia, a dangerous complication of pregnancy and a leading cause of maternal death.

  48. 2005

    BIDMC opens the first multidisciplinary center in New England to treat adults with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.

  49. 2007

    Harvard University names Jeffrey Flier, MD, (right) its 21st dean of the Faculty of Medicine. He is the first dean appointed from BIDMC and its founding hospitals. Research conducted by Flier and his colleagues has contributed to important discoveries on diabetes and obesity.

  50. 2008

    BIDMC forms the first Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC) in adult critical care, a group that offers unique patient perspectives that previously were common only in pediatrics.

  51. 2010

    BIDMC is one of three health care institutions across the country to first adopt OpenNotes, which invites patients to read the notes their doctors write in PatientSite.

  52. 2010

    The BIDMC Cancer Center establishes a unique research facility for testing targeted cancer therapies in mouse models. The facility enables researchers and clinicians to streamline the clinical trial process to expedite testing of new drugs and personalized cancer treatments

  53. 2011

    webOMR, BIDMC’s web-based online medical record system, becomes the first hospital electronic health record system in the country certified for meaningful use under Medicare and Medicaid, and sets a precedent for other systems. webOMR is now used in all of BIDMC’s ambulatory care sites, with more than 1 million visits each year.

  54. 2011

    BIDMC’s Program in Placebo Studies launches the world’s first interdisciplinary center for research into placebos. Investigators are studying the value of placebos as a safe and cost-effective way to help treat a number of chronic conditions.

  55. 2012

    Milton Hospital officially becomes Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, solidifying a relationship that began nearly a decade before. The hospital has served residents of Milton and neighboring areas for more than a century.

  56. 2014

    The Cancer Center founds the Institute for RNA Medicine, one of the first within an academic medical center that focuses on non-coding RNA, now known to play many varied roles in health and disease.

  57. 2014

    BIDMC’s public video phones and American Sign Language interpreter services establish the medical center as a leader in Massachusetts for accessibility, earning an award from the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

  58. 2014

    BIDMC is the first hospital in the nation to measure emotional harm as a preventable harm to improve the patient and family experience, and better the quality and outcomes of care.

  59. 2015

    The 114-year-old Jordan Hospital is renamed Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, extending the BID system of integrated care into southeastern Massachusetts.

  60. 2016

    Complete protection against Zika virus in rhesus monkeys is achieved with two vaccine candidates through research led by Dan Barouch, MD, (far right) in collaboration with scientists at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Information and images for this timeline were provided by the Ruth and David Freiman Archives at BIDMC. To submit a request to add a milestone to this timeline, contact the Freiman Archives.