1983 – 1993

New Tools for a New Era

During Washington Hospital Center's second quarter century, remarkable technological breakthroughs revolutionized patient care by equipping physicians with new tools for diagnosing and treating a wide range of medical conditions. Sophisticated imaging techniques-many employing computer technology-gave doctors unprecedented opportunities to peer into the intricate workings of the human body. A new generation of treatment and surgical methods quickly evolved to take advantage of this newfound ability to navigate the human anatomy with tremendous precision. The Hospital Center became an early adopter and pioneer in advanced imaging applications and in minimally invasive treatment methods.


  • Dunlop Ecker is named president of Washington Hospital Center. John P. McDaniel becomes chief executive officer of Washington Hospital Center Health System, soon renamed Medlantic.
  • The Hospital Center celebrates its 25th anniversary with a series of events, including a gala Silver Jubilee Dinner on January 22 at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. More than 550 people attend, including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Richard Schweiker, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, U.S. Treasury Secretary Ann McLaughlin, and surprise guest Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins quarterback. On March 10, Hospital Center staff and guests toast the big day with a 350-pound cake in the shape of the hospital. Special guests include retired MedStar Washington Hospital Center administrator Richard Loughery and Mrs. Lowell Ditzen (formerly Eleanor Tydings), one of the "Three Graces" who lobbied aggressively for creation of the Hospital Center in the 1940s.
  • The Hospital Center also marks its 25 th anniversary by launching an ambitious 10-year, $75 million building program-its first full-scale site development initiative since the 1960s. Plans call for many additions, including more physician office space, parking facilities, new or revamped surgical facilities, and a new heart institute. Operating and patient rooms will be larger to accommodate equipment that was not in existence in 1958.
  • Washington Hospital Center purchases its first twin-jet helicopter and establishes MedSTAR Transport. The first official MedSTAR Transport flight takes off on July 3, 1983 to fly a spinal-cord injury patient from Prince William County (Virginia) to Washington Hospital Center. Over the years, thousands of patients will be flown in from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District. By 1985, the service is flying 500 patients yearly.
  • The 86-year-old Department of Ophthalmology becomes Washington National Eye Center.
  • The Eye Center begins using the YAG laser for some of the first anterior segment laser procedures in the metropolitan area.
  • The Hospital Center's Research Foundation celebrates its 20 th anniversary.


  • Washington Hospital Center opens the first cardiac arrhythmia center in the Washington metropolitan area. Its electrophysiology lab gives physicians non-drug options for controlling life-threatening rapid heart rhythms. Innovations include implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator, a computer-like device the size of a deck of cards that delivers small electrical shocks to halt the arrhythmia.
  • Cardiac surgeon Paul Corso, MD, of the Hospital Center investigates a new surgical procedure that does not require the use of the elaborate heart-lung machinery. Instead, the heart is slowed with drugs. So-called beating heart surgery will become a major trend in cardiac care in the 1990s. The Hospital Center will become an international leader in the technique.
  • In 1985, the Hospital Center transplants more than 100 kidneys in a single year.
  • Washington Hospital Center sponsors Health Matters, a 26-part public health series aired weekly by local NBC affiliate WRC-TV, Channel 4. The program becomes the foundation of a long-standing relationship between the television station and the Hospital Center.
  • CenterNurse is launched, a monthly bulletin for the Department of Nursing.


  • The Hospital Center unveils Washington Heart and Vascular Institute, the new name for its comprehensive cardiac care program. Washington Heart combines existing programs into a single integrated facility annually handling more than 1,300 open-heart surgeries, 500 angioplasties and close to 400 catheterizations. Plans call for a heart transplant program, an additional catheterization lab, a cardiac rehabilitation program and community education services.
  • In the fall of 1986, the Hospital Center joins five other area hospitals to form the nation's fifth heart transplant consortium. Partners include Children's National Medical Center, Fairfax Hospital, George Washington University Medical Center, Georgetown University Hospital and Howard University Medical Center.
  • National Rehabilitation Hospital, a member of Washington Healthcare Group (which ultimately becomes MedStar Health) opens on the Hospital Center's campus.


  • On May 22, the first heart transplant in Washington, D.C., is performed at Washington Hospital Center. The patient is a 36-year-old local truck driver with degenerative heart disease. A second transplant on another patient follows just 96 hours later.
  • Washington Hospital Center installs a magnetic resonance imager (MRI), the first in the metro area.
  • The Hospital Center ranks 13 th in the nation for kidney transplants, and performs more than half of all such transplants in the Washington metropolitan area
  • Washington Healthcare Corporation becomes Medlantic Healthcare Group, headed by John P. McDaniel. The name change is the first effort of an area hospital system to create a brand identity for itself in the face of intensifying competition.
  • The Visiting Nurse Association, Inc., partners with Medlantic. VNA employs more than 400 nurses, therapists and social workers trained to deliver home care services such as intravenous and respiratory therapy. The affiliation with VNA gives Washington Hospital Center expertise in the growing field of home health care delivery.
  • Washington Hospital Center's Division of Nursing launches a Fellowship/Bridge Program to provide training opportunities for new nurses who have been on the job less than a year. The program later expands to provide financial and educational assistance to experienced RNs who want to train in a specialty area. The first 12-week fellowship focuses on developing intensive care skills.


  • The first Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) in the mid-Atlantic region is implanted in a patient at the Hospital Center. LVADs are internal devices that help maintain the heart's pumping action and are primarily used to support patients while they await a heart for transplantation.
  • During the Hospital Center's 30th anniversary year, the eagerly awaited North Addition opens, offering 18 new operating rooms, an expanded emergency department, 6 patient units and a special wing for Washington Heart.
  • Plans to construct a new outpatient cancer institute at the Hospital Center are announced. Among other things, the new facility will contain a radiation therapy department and centralized outpatient chemotherapy infusion center.
  • Now five years old, MedSTAR Transport adds a second BK-117 helicopter, doubles its staff, adds a fuel station at the Hospital Center, and begins working with the FBI to train hostage rescue team personnel.
  • The Department of Nursing offers the first issue of Nursing Connections, a journal that publishes studies and articles written by Washington Hospital Center nurses.
  • The Hospital Center launches a cardiac rehabilitation program managed by a nurse coordinator, nutritionist and two half-time nurses.


  • Surgeons at Washington Hospital Center perform one of the country's first kidney-pancreas transplants.
  • On March 25, a team at the Hospital Center performs the country's first simultaneous heart and pancreas transplant on a 45-year-old patient. The nine-hour procedure requires five surgeons-three for the heart, two for the pancreas.
  • The Hospital Center's trauma service launches the Washington Community Violence Prevention Program, an initiative designed to teach targeted groups that homicide and intentional injury are preventable public health problems. Such public outreach programs are a fundamental part of the Hospital Center's education mission.
  • The Hospital Center's Oncology Infusion Center opens, providing outpatient treatment services to cancer patients.
  • Surgeons at the Hospital Center perform the area's first cytoreductive surgery using heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, an unusual procedure for which only a few oncologists around the world have been trained. In 1993, the Hospital Center will establish the Peritoneal Surface Malignancies program to treat cancer of the abdominopelvic area.
  • The Hospital Center campus serves as the location for the filming of "A Man Called Hawk," a spin-off of the popular TV series, "Spenser for Hire."
  • Spiraling health care costs prompt the growth of managed care programs. Hospitals around the country endure pressure to shorten patient stays. Physicians are under pressure to admit fewer patients. Payments to doctors and hospitals are no longer made according to traditional billing practices but by a fixed-fee schedule mandated by Medicare and adopted by most private insurers. Not-for-profit hospitals such as the Hospital Center struggle to adjust to new financial realities without compromising patient care, research or teaching programs. MedStar Washington Hospital Center suffered the first financial loss in its history in fiscal year 1990 (July 1, 1989 - June 30, 1990).


  • In November, Kenneth A. Samet, FACHE becomes president of Washington Hospital Center.
  • Brand new Hospital Center President Kenneth A. Samet, FACHE noted: "It's going to take all 4,000 of us working together in a tough financial climate to continue to keep this hospital as one of the premiere health care facilities in the country." Under his leadership, the institution returned to financial health in 1991.
  • The Hospital Center's Diabetes Treatment Center opens.
  • The section of Geriatric Medicine is established in the Department of Medicine.
  • MedSTAR Transport flies more than 1,600 patients this year.
  • Ground is broken for the new 62,000-square-foot Washington Cancer Institute.


  • A Washington Hospital Center patient receives the first implantable insulin pump in the Washington metropolitan area.
  • Washington National Eye Center relocates to spacious new quarters on the hospital's first floor. Nearly 28,000 patients are seen each year by 100 ophthalmologists who donate their time. Sponsor of one of the nation's best ophthalmology residency programs, WNEC annually fields hundreds of applications for its dozen coveted spots.
  • Washington Heart purchases the metropolitan area's first Metriflow Blood Scanner, a diagnostic tool that allows detection of vascular disease as early as possible. The device uses magnetic resonance imaging technology to indirectly measure blood flow.
  • The Hospital Center's heart transplant program is one of the most successful in the country, boasting a 97 percent one-year survival rate versus the national 81 percent average. In 1991 cardiac surgeons perform 13 transplants, bringing the total to 66 since the first one in 1987. The five-year success rate is 85 percent versus the national average of 69 percent.
  • The Hospital Center is one of a select group to participate in a nationwide program to increase the number of organs available for transplant. The Washington Regional Transplant Consortium is one of 70 organ procurement programs nationwide, but only one of four selected for a demonstration program to increase the level of donations. "On any given day, nearly 24,000 sick and dying Americans await an organ transplant, including 380 people in the National Capital Area," notes CenterLine." Last year (1990) more than 13,000 transplants were performed nationwide, 142 at MedStar Washington Hospital Center."
  • A new cardiac catheterization suite opens in the Surinder S. Dhillon Cardiovascular Laboratory in December. The suite includes five new catheterization labs and two electrophysiology labs. Notes Joseph Lindsay, MD, director of cardiology: "We are among the top five heart centers in the country in terms of the types of procedures we offer in the cardiac cath labs and the volume of procedures we perform." In 1991, cardiologists will complete 6,900 procedures in the Hospital Center's busy cath labs.
  • Washington Heart is also an early adopter of TEE-trans-esophageal echocardiography, in which a transducer is attached to an endoscope and slipped into the patient's esophagus, very close to the heart. The cardiac program performs thousands of TEEs each year.
  • During the Gulf War, at least a dozen employees are called up for active service and many more have family members in military uniform. The Hospital Center prepares to take burn victims from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, if needed. A volunteer team of doctors, nurses and technicians is also on call to travel to Germany to care for injured troops, if requested. The conflict ends before the Hospital Center's services are required.


  • The Hospital Center aggressively pursues economic efficiencies while maintaining its traditional clinical emphasis and fulfilling its research and teaching commitments. One result is a six percent increase in admissions between 1991 and 1996, at a time when all District hospitals overall will lose 12 percent in the face of heightened competition from suburban hospitals.
  • Two years after breaking ground, the new Washington Cancer Institute opens on May 9. The Institute's new space effectively gathers all of the Hospital Center's cancer outpatient services under one roof. The facility is home to two high-energy linear accelerators that use electron beams to precisely target tumors deep in the body.
  • The Hospital Center's first Distinguished Nurses Program recognizes nurses-selected by their peers-who exemplify the spirit of excellence in patient care.
  • Hospice Care of D.C. opens a satellite office at The Cancer Institute.
  • Washington Hospital Center Foundation is established to serve as the fundraising arm of the hospital.
  • Of the more than 3,000 babies born at the Hospital Center in 1992, 40 percent are high-risk. "Preemies" weighing more than two pounds have a 99 percent survival rate in the Hospital Center's Neonatal ICU-one of best success rates in country.
  • MedSTAR Transport celebrates 10 years with a flawless safety record. The program is granted independent status from MedSTAR Trauma and is placed within the Department of Emergency Medicine with the support of the Division of Surgical Nursing.
  • More than 200 physicians are currently in residency or fellowship training at the Hospital Center in a comprehensive array of medical specialties. Some of the programs are integrated with those of local universities; others are stand-alone training programs developed by the Hospital Center's own staff.


  • The Hospital Center celebrates its 35th anniversary.
  • Approaching its 15th anniversary, MedSTAR is consistently named one of the country's top ten Level I Shock-Trauma units. MedSTAR Transport carries more than 3,000 critically injured or ill patients to the Hospital Center each year.
  • In October 1993, the Hospital Center announces plans to launch an Institute for Asthma and Allergy. In the Washington metropolitan area alone, one in five people suffers from allergies; one in 20 suffers from asthma.
  • During the year, the Hospital Center admits almost 34,000 patients, serves more than 72,000 outpatients and sees more than 38,000 visits to its emergency and shock trauma services. The payroll includes 5,376 employees. Its medical and dental staff numbers 1,300 physicians.