Before Hunterdon Medical Center opened its doors on July 3, 1953, Hunterdon was the only county in New Jersey without a hospital.
In 1946, Rose Angell, the county’s welfare director, and Louise Leicester, a public relations specialist who had promoted the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, went to the Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture with a plea: “Build our county a hospital.” An investigating committee was formed, headed by Lloyd B. Wescott.
The Board of Agriculture enlisted the help of a health and hospital consultant from New York, Dr. E.H.L. Corwin, who spent months studying Hunterdon’s economy and healthcare needs. In April, 1948, a group of trustees filed papers to establish a corporation that would run Hunterdon Medical Center.
Clifford E. Snyder, former president of the county Board of Agriculture, was named the first president of the Hunterdon Medical Center Board of Trustees.
One of Dr. Corwin’s recommendations was to seek affiliation with a teaching hospital. In 1949, an alliance had been agreed with New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.
May 4, 1949, marked the beginning of a campaign to raise the funds needed to build the hospital. By that date, more than $100,000 in pledges had been received. Rather than employing an outside organization to raise $1.2 million, the campaign committee decided to work with volunteers. Each of the 26 municipalities in Hunterdon County had a chairman and a network of volunteer solicitors. Children emptied piggy banks and volunteers shined shoes, held auctions, dances, picnics, concerts and plays to raise money. A 45-acre site just north of Flemington was selected to build the hospital.
In 1950, Dr. Ray Trussell was named Hunterdon Medical Center’s first director. In 1951, Lloyd Wescott became chairman of the Board of Trustees, succeeding Clifford Snyder. Ground was broken for the new hospital in 1951.
Hunterdon Medical Center opened its doors on July 3, 1953. Henry Potopowitz, an 11 year old boy from Annandale became the first patient with an acute case of appendicitis. The next day, three babies were born.
By 1963, the hospital’s 10-year anniversary, Hunterdon Medical Center had become one of the first hospital’s in the nation to allow fathers in the delivery room. The hospital expanded its residency program to two years, and implemented a pioneering home care program. Also in the first decade, the first class of ten practical nurses trained by Hunterdon Medical Center and Hunterdon Central High School graduated.
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