Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital celebrates 100 years of world-class pediatric care

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(Good things Utah) Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital celebrates a major milestone – its 100th birthdayth th birthday – with leaders marking a century of excellence in pediatric care and service to children throughout the Intermountain West by renewing their primary promise of keeping the “child first and always.”

“We have accomplished many notable milestones in our first 100 years,” said Dustin Lipson, administrator of Primary Children’s Hospital. “We will continue to work to improve children’s health, improve our quality of care, address new health needs and extend our expertise to those who need us most in the next century. What an exciting future for Primary Children’s and the children and families we are fortunate to serve.”

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital has grown from an act of compassion for a child to providing world-class pediatric care to 100,000 children a year, regardless of their ability to pay.

It started in a home near Temple Square and grew into a multi-campus care network that spans 400,000 square miles across the Intermountain West. Its services have evolved from orthopedics and chronic disease management to treating the most complex childhood injuries and diseases, from organ transplants to in-utero and open fetal surgeries with the University of Utah Health.

“Primary Children’s Hospital not only saved my life as a child, but my child’s life more than once,” said Sara Mainor, a Utah mother. “The specialists can help one child at a time, but it’s so much more than that. Through their expertise, they help entire families and the communities those families are a part of – and in the case of me and Nellie, who has an illness, who is one in a million, generations of children.”

Mainor remembers being in Primary Children’s as a child when doctors successfully removed a tumor from her brain. Their 12-year-old daughter Nellie recently received a kidney transplant after years of daily dialysis treatments – while leading several fundraisers to help her fellow patients.

“The elementary school nurses and doctors have become like a second family to me,” said Nellie, who was diagnosed with the rare dense plaque disease at the age of 6. “I love the people who have helped me and I’m glad they have done the same for thousands of other children. Happy birthday, Primary children!”

hospital built for children, by children

Primary Children’s Hospital was inspired by Louie B. Felt and May Anderson, officers of the Primary Association, the children’s program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who were touched by the sight of a child on crutches struggling through a city street .

Recognizing the need for special medical care for children, the primary association funded the treatment of 72 children in a children’s ward established in 1911 at the LDS hospital.

In 1922, the Primary Association opened the first Primary Children’s Hospital at 40 W. North Temple, across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The hospital primarily served children with orthopedic and chronic diseases and who needed convalescent care after operations at the LDS hospital, resulting in an average stay of six months.

The Primary Children’s Hospital was made possible through philanthropy, including Pennies by the Inch, in which the children of Latter-day Saints Elementary School donated pennies each birthday, and annual Penny Parades held in hundreds of Intermountain towns and farm counties became.

When the hospital needed modernization in 1938, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Heber J. Grant, responded. Local business leaders had given him 1,000 silver dollars for his 82nd Date of birth. He donated the coins to build the hospital, and each silver dollar was made into a paperweight and sold for $100.

After World War II, the Primary Association started “Dimes for Bricks,” asking residents to contribute 10 cents toward the purchase of a red brick for the new hospital.

In 1952 the new Primary Children’s Hospital opened with 70 beds in 320 12th Avenue in Salt Lake City. Half of the $1.25 million cost was paid for through these fundraisers, making Primary Children’s in large part a hospital built by children, for children.

Intermountain Healthcare brings new opportunities

In 1975, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formed Intermountain Healthcare, an independent, not-for-profit, through which its hospital assets, including Primary Children’s, were donated to the community.

In return, the church commissioned Intermountain to become a “model healthcare system” that provides affordable, accessible, and exceptional care.

The Primary Children’s followed the call. By the 1960s, the expertise had expanded to include acute care, surgeries, a pharmacy, an outpatient clinic, a medical library, and pediatrician rotations at the University of Utah.

In 1977, the hospital became the teaching hospital for the Department of Pediatrics of the University of Utah School of Medicine, paving the way for research, innovation, additional pediatric specialties, and life-saving technologies to help children survive and thrive.

In 1990, Primary Children’s moved to its current 289-bed facility on the University of Utah campus adjacent to the School of Medicine. The Primary Children’s Eccles outpatient building opened in 2014 to meet the growing needs of patients.

Into the Next 100 Years: A Primary Promise to the Child First and Always

Today, Primary Children’s offers more than 60 medical and surgical pediatric specialties with more than 800 physicians and 3,000 caregivers. In 2020 alone, $14 million in charitable dollars was provided to cover 11,867 patient visits.

The specialty care is now available in clinics, partner hospitals and via pediatric telemedicine at locations in Utah, Nevada, Montana, Idaho and Montana, bringing children’s pediatric care closer to their homes.

Hospital patients receive music, dance and art therapy and enjoy toys, crafts and games in a lavish Forever Young Zone and Sophie’s Place, where they can heal through the power of expression and play.

Visits from world-renowned actors, artists, athletes and leaders including President George HW Bush, Jennifer Garner, Farah Fawcett, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Mouse, Robert Redford, the Dalai Lama, BB-8 from Star Wars and Sabrina Carpenter. continue to delight patients during their hospital stay.

Families can relax and refresh in two Ronald McDonald family rooms within the hospital.

The new Grant Scott Bonham Fetal Center in the hospital’s new North Tower, in close partnership with the University of Utah Health, provides multi-specialty fetal care and surgeries for unborn children and their mothers and families.

The most vulnerable infants are cared for in a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit. Later this year, children with cancer will receive expert care in upgraded healing rooms and infusion areas that better meet the needs of children and families.

Primary Children’s began construction of a second hospital campus in Lehi, Utah, on the campus of the Larry H. and Gail Miller family in 2020 to meet growing needs in the area for decades to come. The hospital will have five floors, 66 beds and a three-story medical office building totaling 486,000 square feet. It is scheduled to open in 2024.

The Miller Family campus is part of Intermountain Healthcare’s “Primary Promise” vision to create the nation’s exemplary children’s healthcare system – just as its founders intended.

“As a pediatric critical care physician trained at Primary Children’s Hospital, I have witnessed firsthand the amazing care that is bestowed on each child,” said Marc Harrison, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Intermountain Healthcare. “I am proud to have been part of Primary Children’s first 100 years and look forward to the next century of advances that will help children lead healthier lives.”

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital Milestones

1922 – The first elementary school for children opens in a converted house across from Temple Square

1924 – The diseases most commonly treated are polio, osteomyelitis, and tonsils; Patients traveled to the hospital from six western states and Canada

1952 – Elementary school children move to a 70-bed facility on March 12th Avenue in Salt Lake City

1968 – Primary Children’s begins offering pediatric psychiatric services

1971 – First Festival of Trees raises $47,000 for charity

1977 – Primary Children’s becomes the teaching hospital for the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics

1979 – Air transportation (soon to be called Life Flight) begins, bringing 232 children over 20,000 miles to Primary Children’s in the first year

1982 – The NICU is a testing ground for the high-frequency jet ventilator that has proven successful in rescuing small premature babies

1984 – First children’s heart balloon pumping at Children’s Elementary School

1991 – Began Hold On To Dear Life injury prevention program, designed to increase use of child car seats and seat belts by 17 percent in the first year

1991 – President George HW Bush and Dr. Louis Sullivan, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, visit the Primary Children’s Hospital

1996 – Primary Children’s successfully separates conjoined twins from Honduras

1996 – Primary Children’s performs the first liver transplant

1997 – Utah’s first living liver transplant from a related donor, performed on a 9-month-old girl at Primary Children’s

1999 – Primary Children’s becomes the first children’s hospital in the nation and the first hospital in Utah to adopt digital medical imaging

2002 – The hospital becomes the only one in a five-state region to achieve the highest Level I Pediatric Trauma Center certification

2007 – First antibody therapy in the primary children’s cancer center

2014 – Opening of the Eccles Ambulatory Services building

2015 – First Car-T Therapy performed at Primary Children’s

2017 – Primary Children’s in all top 10 children’s hospitals as measured by US News and World Report

2019 – Primary Children’s Center for Personalized Medicine announced

2020 – Construction begins on a second Primary Children’s in Lehi on the Larry H. and Gail Miller family campus

2021 – First pediatric ECMO transport performed

2021 – First open fetal surgery performed with University of Utah Health 2024 – Second Primary Children’s Hospital opened on Larry H. and Gail Miller family campus in Lehi


For more information, see www.IntermountainHealthcare.org/Primary-Childrens.


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