A Dream Come True
|Twenty-five years ago, Froedtert Hospital opened the door to a new era of advanced medical care in southeastern Wisconsin.
On September 29, 1980, hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard on Milwaukee County Grounds. Among them were Wisconsin Governor Lee Dreyfus and Mrs. Mary Froedtert. Dreyfus delivered a speech and unveiled a commemorative plaque.
The occasion was the opening of Froedtert Hospital.
Early HistoryFroedtert Hospital had a history before there was a Froedtert Hospital. Please see our timeline that begins with Kurtis R. Froedtert's dream.
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While the ceremony took place, Froedtert Hospital admitted patient number one — a man from Fond du Lac suffering heart problems. Three more patients entered the hospital later that day, bringing the patient census to a grand total of four.
The day came and went quickly, but it opened the door on a dream that was decades in the making.
Medicine and MaltIt all began more than 30 years earlier with the vision of Milwaukee businessman Kurtis R. Froedtert. As a young man, Froedtert dreamed of becoming a doctor. In fact, he received scholarships to three Ivy League colleges, as well as the University of Chicago. However, his father’s health problems drew him into the family business, forcing him to give up plans of medical school. When his father died in 1915, Froedtert took over the Froedtert Malt and Grain Co.
For the next 35 years, he put his tremendous energy into growing the business, eventually creating the largest malt company in the world. During this time, Froedtert never lost his interest in science and medicine. When he died in 1951, he left an estimated $9 million to $11 million for a new hospital and support of medical education and research.
Froedtert’s gift to the community came at the right moment. At mid-century, Milwaukee was one of few American cities without an academic medical center. Patients needing advanced care were referred to Chicago, Madison and beyond. The trustees of Froedtert’s estate soon developed a detailed vision for a new teaching and research hospital. Although the idea was timely, it took years to build steam within the community. Milwaukee already had too many hospital beds, which generated opposition to the Froedtert plan. On the other hand, federal legislation creating a nationwide network of regional medical centers gave impetus to the vision.
After decades of discussion, planning and politics, consensus formed around the need for a tertiary care facility in southeastern Wisconsin. On the sunny morning of September 14, 1977, officials broke ground for Froedtert Hospital.
Starting From Scratch“Starting a hospital from scratch is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says John Kolesari, RPh, assistant director of Pharmacy Services at Froedtert. Kolesari worked at County Hospital when Froedtert opened, and he recalls watching from the windows as construction crews dug the basement for the new facility. In the summer of 1980, he became one of Froedtert Hospital’s first staff members.
“When I started, the hospital was just a shell,” says Kolesari. “We didn’t even have a pharmacy per se.” He recalls the pharmacy team scrambling to get ready for the first patients. “Setting up and stocking the pharmacy was a major event,” he says. “The day before the hospital opened, we finally got doors installed. It was an all-night session.”
Following opening day, the hospital grew rapidly. Daily patient census averaged 70 for the first full month. Staff tripled in the next 12 months, increasing from 235 to more than 800.
In Kolesari’s memory, the traits that characterized the people who built Froedtert Hospital were energy, creativity and camaraderie. “I think we had the right group together,” he says. “It was a youthful, energetic staff, an empowered team that did a lot of creative thinking and took decisive action.” A sense of togetherness and shared goals propelled the group forward. Kolesari remembers: “There was a unique ‘willingness,’ a burning desire to see Froedtert succeed.”
Fresh IdeasFrom the start, much of Froedtert Hospital’s energy came from its dynamic nursing staff. Pam Maxson-Cooper, MS, RN — vice president for Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer — took part in Froedtert’s first nurse orientation in fall 1980. She says the hospital stood out early as an organization that understood the potential of the nursing profession.
“One of Froedtert’s innovations was the primary care nursing model,” says Maxson-Cooper. Each nurse is responsible for anassigned group of patients during his or her shift. Every patient is under the charge of a primary nurse, who coordinates care for a 24-hour period. “It was novel,” she says. “There were no head nurses, supervisors or charge nurses. We were independent practitioners.”
Another innovation — 7/70 scheduling — made a big splash in the nursing community. (Nurses work seven ten-hour days, thenget seven days off.) “It was a revolutionary concept that still works for us today,” says Maxson-Cooper. By scheduling overlapping shifts, Froedtert empowered nursing teams to meet patient needs and ensure continuity of care.
“Early on, Froedtert established a reputation as a young institution: progressive, forward-thinking and cutting-edge,” says Sue Derus, executive director of cancer services for Froedtert & Community Health. Being “forward-thinking” included a commitment to patient-centered care. In the early 1990s, she notes, Froedtert created the Breast Care Center with greater continuity and convenience for breast cancer patients. Later, the hospital committed extra resources to move Radiation Oncology — and its heavy equipment — to the same floor as the hospital’s Cancer Center. “Bringing it all together is better for patient care,” says Derus, “and for staff, too.”
Maxson-Cooper says 7/70 scheduling and the patient relationship care model still underpin Froedtert’s nursing program. Looking back, she credits nurses’ independence and drive for meeting the challenges of a start-up operation. “People from different departments worked as a team,” she says. “We fine-tuned systems and did whatever it took to provide the best care.”
Leadership and LoyaltyDean Roe, Froedtert’s first president, was among those who worked hard to foster that sense of teamwork. “Roe was the right guy at the right time,” says Jim King, the hospital’s public relations director from 1980 to 1995. King remembers Roe as a patient man of great vision and a gifted team builder. “Under Roe’s leadership,” says King, “people developed loyalty to the hospital — it was like one big family.”
Another key personality in the early days was Carl Junkerman, MD, the hospital’s first vice president for professional and academic affairs. King describes Dr. Junkerman as self-effacing, firm, but compassionate. He was regarded as an excellent diagnostician. “If you listen to the patient long enough,” Dr. Junkerman often said, “the patient will diagnose the problem.”
Loyalty and leadership proved essential at Froedtert Hospital. Although many in the community saw the value of the new facility, physician referrals lagged during the first years. Census remained well below budgeted levels and a few years after it opened, the hospital announced layoffs and wage freezes.
To get past the crisis, Froedtert leveraged its strengths — especially its affiliation with the Medical College of Wisconsin. In the early 1980s, Medical College of Wisconsin physicians began presenting seminars to local doctors. “Outreach built respect,” says King. In 1983, Froedtert Hospital became the operations base for Flight For Life. This air medical service helped establish the young hospital as a regional center for critical care. Perhaps more than anything, what pulled Froedtert through was its growing renown as a place where medical miracles happened. King puts it plainly: “We did things here that were not done elsewhere.”
In 1983, Medical College of Wisconsin surgeons performed Wisconsin’s first liver transplant at Froedtert. Two years later, another Medical College of Wisconsin physician team became the first in the state to do a cochlear implant, restoring some hearing to a man who was deaf. The hospital also developed a reputation as a center for limb replants — performing unbelievable surgeries for victims of frightening trauma. These and other innovations helped establish Froedtert Hospital as the place in southeastern Wisconsin for the most advanced medical care.
Anything is PossibleSince 1980, Froedtert Hospital has experienced amazing growth. Staff now number nearly 4,000. In 2001, Froedtert put the finishing touches on surgical suites that are among the most sophisticated in the nation. Recently, the hospital inaugurated the Sargeant Health Center, providing space for primary care and outpatient surgery. In 2007, Froedtert will open a new Cancer Pavilion.
According to Vice President of Operations John Balzer, Froedtert's philosophy in real estate development is consistent with its general outlook: meet today's needs and insure flexibility for the future. "Our facilities," Balzer notes, "are designed in a logical way to create a pleasing environment for staff and a healing environment for patients. 'Lavish' is not in our vocabulary."
In the last few years, the organization made headlines with a series of milestones — the first in Wisconsin to perform anauditory brain stem implant, among the first in the country to offer PET/CT imaging and TomoTherapy®, and one of the first in the world to do a “piggyback” liver transplant.
Pam Maxson-Cooper points out the advanced care now available at Froedtert Hospital makes good on Kurtis Froedtert’s dream — thanks to the powerful combination of patient focus and academic mission: “With Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin working together, anything is possible.”
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: September 2005