Putting the needs of children first
The Children's Memorial Hospital first opened its doors on January 30, 1904, on Guy Street in Montreal. It was a bilingual institution and the first hospital in Montreal with the sole mandate of caring for sick children.
1904-1929: The early years
The hospital established its reputation as a pioneer in pediatric medicine during this era, when many children fell ill with infectious diseases such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis and polio. In 1909, the growing number of patients required a move to a new location on Cedar Avenue. In 1920, The Children's became a teaching hospital affiliated with McGill University, beginning a relationship that has resulted in a dynamic and successful teaching and research environment over the years. Recognizing the link between children's health and their home environment, in 1926 the hospital became the first in Canada to establish a Social Services Department to support the family.
1930- 1959: Growth and innovation
The tradition of excellence that has become part of the hospital's culture was set into motion with the commitment to adapt to the needs of patients and find new solutions through teaching and research.
The hospital and its services continued to grow steadily, establishing notable firsts: the first speech therapy clinic in a pediatric hospital in 1933, the first division of medical genetics in 1949 and the first psychiatry department in 1950. The growth of services required another expansion and move in 1956, when The Children's Memorial moved to 2300 Tupper and became The Montreal Children's Hospital / L'Hôpital de Montréal pour enfants.
1960-1999: Technology booms, but caring remains at the forefront
The Children's was now known as a full-service teaching hospital. With the integration of new imaging technology such as the first CT scan in a Canadian pediatric setting in 1977, brain mapping and ultrasound technology in 1980 and magnetic resonance imaging in 1994, specialties such as cardiology and cardiac surgery, genetics, trauma care, neurology and neurosurgery, psychiatry and orthopedics evolved dramatically. Technology also had a profound impact on research and clinical care.
As Montreal's population changed, so did the needs of the patients. In 1985, the MCH created the first hospital-wide multiculturalism program in Canada. The program was designed to promote cross-cultural sensitivity and contribute to the development of cross-cultural health care at the service delivery and institutional levels. Since then, the Multicultural Clinic has also been established.
After five years of joint study and research on future healthcare models, The Children's led the formation of an innovative partnership dedicated to offering the best possible care to patients on a lifetime basis. In August 1997, The Montreal Children's Hospital joined with the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and the Chest Institute to form the McGill University Health Centre (in April of 2008, the Lachine Hospital and Camille-Lefebvre Pavillion became the newest members of the MUHC).
2000 and on: Medicine at The Children's in the 21st century
The Children's has been a leader in extraordinary events in the world of pediatric medicine in the last few years. In the year 2000, the MCH delivered the first baby in Quebec using the EXIT (ex-utero intrapartum treatment) procedure. Another Canadian first came in 2002 when a mechanical heart, called the Berlin Heart, was used successfully as a bridge to transplant on the youngest patient ever in North America. In 2004, the hospital celebrated its centennial, marking its first 100 years of caring and medical breakthroughs.
Now The Children's is focusing on the future. To make sure the delivery of care within its walls and wherever its young patients may be is the best it can be, the MCH is leading the development of innovative programs and services. One notable example is Telehealth, which allows MCH experts to consult, teach and even perform therapy in remote areas with children situated long distances from the hospital.
An exciting new state-of-the-art hospital dedicated to pediatric care will be built as part of the McGill University Health Centre in the coming years, providing an outstanding new environment for The Children's special expertise and caring touch.
A few highlights:
Innovation was inspired by a terrible polio epidemic in 1932. A revolutionary machine called the iron lung had been developed in the United States to save the lives of patients with respiratory complications, but there were none available in Montreal. Dr. Howard Mitchell, the general superintendent of the hospital, and Tom Wright, the hospital carpenter, constructed a respirator out of wood. It was so effective that the Nutfield Foundation in England adopted the design and shipped it around the world. Since then, the field of respiratory medicine has grown exponentially: non-invasive ventilators were introduced in the 1980s, and in the 1990s high frequency ventilators began to have an impact on newborn medicine, allowing precise control of the amount of air provided to newborn lungs.
In 1961, Montreal was the rickets capital of the world. Rickets is a disease that causes progressive softening and weakening of bones. Around this time, the DeBell Laboratory was founded at The Children's to study genetic disorders in children. Dr. Charles Scriver discovered unusual findings in hundreds of children each year and linked rickets with a Vitamin D deficiency. He thought that adding the vitamin to bottled milk could eliminate the problem, and he successfully lobbied governments for regulatory change that eliminated 500 cases of nutritional rickets a year. There are many stories like these from the hospital’s history, in which research, discovery and intervention have led to the prevention of disease. The hospital has also lobbied for car seats for infants, mandatory wearing of bicycle helmets, and launched the Back to Sleep campaign to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Caramel, the hospital mascot, was created in 2001 to convey the unique spirit of the Children's. With his reassuring presence, Caramel embodies the comforting and caring touch of MCH personnel and represents that "special something" that makes the difference in pediatric care. As well as representing the MCH at hundreds of community events to benefit the hospital each year, Caramel is the hospital's number one ambassador among children. To book Caramel for an event, simply call 1-866-934-4846 or email email@example.com.
Sometimes teaching and training takes place on the fly. Sometimes a new technology or technique is tried out for the first time in an effort to save a child's life. In 2002, a multidisciplinary team from the MUHC's joint pediatric and adult transplant team performed the first mechanical heart procedure in Canada, using the Berlin Heart. Although the members of the team had some experience in certain aspects of this procedure, most were given one weekend to learn how the device worked, how to perform the procedure on a child and what follow-up care was required. The Berlin Heart kept two year-old Émile Jutras alive for 109 days until he was able to receive a heart transplant. Today, he is cared for by the MCH Intensive Ambulatory Care Service and is doing very well. Altogether a team of about 100 people were involved in the care of Émile and his family. It is this type of leading-edge training experience that makes The Children's an outstanding place for new generations of healthcare professionals to learn and practice medicine.