We take the availability of healthcare for granted these days. That doctors must be licensed to practice medicine, that they have undergone internships and residencies before they are certified to practice amidst the general public. There was a time when licensing was not required, and medical school followed directly after high school, and could be completed in a mere two years or less, if you could simply pass the qualifying examination.
It was during that era that the Baylor University Medical Center began humbly as the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium. The official charter was granted on October 16, 1903. It came about through Dr. Charles McDaniel Rosser, who first moved to Dallas in 1889, and his determination to create a medical school in Dallas.By 1891, Dr. Rosser had become a public health officer for the city, a position which made him aware of the unsanitary conditions in the City Hospital, which led to the construction of the new Parkland Hospital on Oaklawn Avenue in 1894.
By 1900, Dallas had a population of more than 42,000 people and had a second, private hospital, the St. Paul Sanitarium on Bryan Street, which had been built in 1898. On August 14, 1900, local physicians met to consider the creation and building of a medical college in Dallas and gathered at the office of Dr. J. B. Titterington. The medical college officially opened on November 19, 1900 in a leased building in the 1300 block of Commerce Street with an enrollment of 80 students. The students received their clinical training at Parkland Hospital, but because of the distance between the two facilities and the lack of public transportation, it was often difficult to accomplish. Dr. Rosser had attempted to gain participation from the nearby St. Paul Sanitarium, but St. Paul physicians would have nothing to do with the college and refused.
The medical school’s solution was to have their own hospital, and with a hint of support from Dr. J. B. Gambrell, Dr. Rosser purchased “The Hopkins’ Place,” a two-story brick mansion with acreage on Junius Street for $22,500. The refitting of the 14-room house to create a 25-bed ward, operating rooms, and an admitting area for the Good Samaritan Hospital was completed in 1901.
By 1903, there were 50,000 people living in Dallas. The medical school had invited Dr. Adolf Lorenz from Vienna, Austria to offer clinics using his “bloodless” orthopedic surgical techniques. Before the “bloodless surgeon” left Dallas, a special gathering of elite from around Dallas and throughout Texas met at the Oriental Hotel to pay tribute to Dr. Lorenz, but it was the speech of Dr. George W. Truett, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, that made it a momentous occasion. Dr. Truett dared Dallas to “begin the erection of a great humanitarian hospital.” The following day, Baptist millionaire cattle baron, “Colonel” C. C. Slaughter pledged the first portion of what grew to be $200,000 toward the hospital’s construction, and by June 1903, Baylor University became the medical school’s sponsor.
Dr. Rosser sold the Good Samaritan Hospital, fully equipped, for the price he initially paid for the property alone, and it became the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium, officially opened for business on March 11, 1904. By the end of the year, however, the sanitarium was deemed too small for their purposes, and expansion plans were already in full swing for a new $125,000 hospital with groundbreaking ceremonies held on November 5, 1904.
For more information on the history of Baylor University Medical Center:
Baylor University Medical Center: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, by Lana Henderson
Fifty Years of Baylor University Hospital, Rev. Powhatan W. James