Children's Hospital Colorado


The first 100 years of Children's Hospital Colorado's history have included numerous accomplishments, honors and stories of committed caregivers improving the lives of children. Learn more about our achievements through the years in the timeline below.

1980-2008: Innovation and Expansion

Children's Hospital Colorado grew rapidly during the last quarter century, both into new locations across Colorado and new areas of expertise. Significant advancements in scientific knowledge and technology changed the face of medicine in ways previously unimaginable. During this time, Children's Hospital Colorado:

  • Pioneered the use of inhaled nitric oxide in newborns for the treatment of pulmonary disease.
  • Launched the Prescription Pets Program, providing a national model for dog-assisted therapy and visitation.
  • Affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
  • Expanded to include a network of care for pediatric services throughout the region. Currently our Children's Colorado locations provide high quality pediatric services throughout the metro area and all along Colorado's front range.
  • Achieved and maintained the prestigious Magnet Status designation for nursing excellence.
  • Transitioned to a fully integrated Electronic Medical Record system, the first freestanding pediatric facility in the nation to do so.
  • Moved to a state-of-the-art, 1.44 million square-foot hospital on Anschutz Medical Campus at I-225 and East Colfax Avenue.
  • Celebrated a century of commitment to pediatric healthcare.

1945-1980: Emergence of a Modern Institution

The postwar years brought dramatic advances in medical technology and increasing demand for healthcare services, positioning Children's Hospital Colorado as a national leader in pediatric treatment and research:

  • The introduction of antibiotics dramatically reduced childhood mortality and debilitating injuries due to bacterial infection.
  • The Junior League opened the hospital's first snack and gift shop in 1950.
  • Children's Hospital Colorado Research Foundation was founded in 1953.
  • Polio epidemics ravaged American childhood in the early 1950s, but the Salk and Sabin vaccines begin to wipe out the disease's effects as early as 1954.
  • Dr. John Grow performed the first open-heart surgery at Children's Hospital Colorado in 1953. The hospital became regionally known for specialties such as cardiac surgery and critical care for newborns. See a timeline and milestones from our Heart Institute.
  • The Oca Cushman Wing – named after the hospital's first superintendent – opened in 1958, adding 72,000 square-feet of modern medical facilities including operating and recovery rooms.
  • One of the country's first child-abuse identification, prevention and treatment programs began in 1958 with the Child Protection Team, under the direction of Dr. C. Henry Kempe.
  • Children's Hospital Colorado sponsored Colorado's first amputee ski school at Arapahoe Basin in 1968. Adaptive Recreation for Childhood Health (ARCH) program for children with disabilities have become a national model.
  • The first Burn Program in Colorado began treating pediatric patients in 1974.
  • Founded in 1965 under the direction of Dr. L. Joseph Butterfield, Children's Hospital Colorado Newborn Center became an internationally-recognized leader in the prevention and treatment of birth defects, low-birth weight babies and premature births, treating nearly 1,000 babies per year by 1975.
  • Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation was formally established.
  • Street clothes were written into the nurses' dress code – no more white uniforms.
  • Dr. James Todd garnered international attention in 1978 when he discovered and named Toxic Shock Syndrome.

1908-1945: A Hospital is Born

During its early years, Children's Hospital Colorado operated on tiny budgets, and donations consisted mainly of food, clothing and supplies. The hospital grew from a 30-bed facility in a converted residence to a specialized pediatric healthcare center that battled polio epidemics and weathered shortages of nurses and supplies during World War II.

  • Children's Hospital Colorado Association was incorporated on May 9, 1908.
  • The hospital opened in a converted residence on Feb. 17, 1910, treating 290 patients in its first year.
  • The hospital's first class of nursing students graduated in 1912.
  • Our expanded main hospital opened in 1917 at 19th Avenue and Downing Street in downtown Denver.
  • Doctors and nurses battled infectious diseases like smallpox, diphtheria, pertussis and typhoid – the chief causes of infant and childhood illness at the time.
  • Dr. George B. Packard Jr. performed the first pyloromyotomy – a type of stomach surgery – in Denver in the 1920s.
  • Harry and Agnes Reid Tammen endowed the Tammen Trust Fund to guarantee care for all children. The Tammens funded innovative advances in pediatric rehabilitative services for tuberculosis and polio patients.
  • The Agnes Reid Tammen Wing of the hospital opened in 1924, providing new facilities for orthopedic care. Tammen Hall Nursing School soon followed.
  • The hospital hired its first physical therapist in 1932. The X-Ray Department opened the same year.
  • A Hydro-Physio-Therapy unit opened in 1936 and was acknowledged as the finest of its kind in the United States.
  • Agnes Reid Tammen donated the hospital's first "iron lung" machine in 1937, providing treatment for children with trouble breathing.
  • The hospital logged its first medical record in 1939.
  • Children's Hospital Colorado Infant Surgery Ward opened in 1948, headed by Dr. George B. Packard, Jr. Surgical treatment for disorders such as cleft palate greatly improved quality of life for many patients.
  • Tonsillectomy was the hospital's most common surgical procedure in the 1940s.
  • While World War II caused serious shortages of medical and nursing staff on the home front, Children's Hospital Colorado put the medical knowledge gained by field physicians to work in treating its trauma patients.