It's not every day that a hospital marks the 140th anniversary of the day it received its first patient. But that's what St. Luke's University Hospital – Bethlehem did Thursday when it hosted an event to showcase the opening of the Fowler Family Museum.
Tracing the history of the Fountain Hill-based health network from its inception to today, the museum uses large touch-screen technology alongside black and white photographs and notable diagrams and displays to share stories with visitors about how the area's first community hospital was born. As an example, videos showcase the growth of the network's nursing programs.
In 1870, community leaders started to discuss the need to establish a hospital here, said Carol Kuplen, chief operating officer for St. Luke's University Hospital – Bethlehem, in Fountain Hill.
On Oct. 17, 1873, St. Luke's Hospital admitted its first patient, accommodating 47 patients the first year, Kuplen said.
"Today, we admit over 90 patients a day," Kuplen said. "We are now located in eight counties in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey."
St. Luke's employs more than 9,000 workers, she added.
The 140th anniversary of the first patient shows that the network stayed true to its mission and is focused on establishing small hospitals in small communities so the majority of people can get access to care close to where they live, she said.
St. Luke's established the museum in the late 1990s but recently upgraded the technology. The museum is free and open to the public with guided tours, Kuplen said.
Located in the Coxe Pavilion, the museum once served as a ward for St. Luke's Hospital.