The largest safety net health system in Indiana, Wishard Health Services has had a profound role in caring for the Indianapolis community for more than 150 years. Wishard’s existence in Indianapolis has ensured that all residents, regardless of their financial status, have access to the highest quality health care.
Wishard’s extraordinary history can be traced back to 1855 when a smallpox epidemic prompted Indianapolis to begin building a hospital. Six years before Governor Oliver P. Morton issued a call for Indiana volunteers to fight in the Civil War, Indianapolis was but a fraction of its current size. The hospital opened its doors in 1859 with its first building northwest of the city at what is today Tenth Street and Indiana Avenue. City Hospital served the military until 1865, and an estimated 13,000 sick and wounded soldiers were treated there over a five-year period.
The city of Indianapolis began administration of the hospital in 1866, and, under Dr. William N. Wishard during the 1880s, City Hospital constructed state-of-the-art, three-story brick buildings on the hospital grounds to better care for the city’s residents.
Always on the forefront of health care, Wishard was not only the first hospital in Indiana, but it also established the first school of nursing in the state. The “Flower Mission Training School for Nurses” graduated its first class of five nursing students in 1885 and a total of 2,750 nurses in the 97 years it was open. In 1887, when the first City Hospital ambulances began carrying sick and injured patients, one of the oldest and largest hospital-based ambulance services in the nation was born. (Much later, these vehicles became the first in the U.S. to use two-way radios to coordinate ambulance dispatch.) By the late 19th century, the hospital was one of the few health care facilities in the state offering such specialized services as neurology, obstetrics-gynecology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology and urology.
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