Blank Children's Hospital

History

Blank Children's Hospital has the distinction of being the only civilian hospital built during World War II. At that time, Iowa had the highest rate of polio among children of any state, but was one of only a few states that did not have a children's hospital to care for them. The A.H. and Anna Blank family built the original hospital in 1944, in honor of their son Raymond who died at a young age, to address the health care needs of Iowa's ill and injured children - and that legacy has continued for more than 65 years. 

Legacy of Care - A detailed History


1943

Construction on Blank Children's Hospital begins. The original hospital with 80 beds included a playroom decorated with Disney-character murals designed by Walt Disney artists.  Lee Forest Hill, M.D., is instrumental in the development of Blank Children's Hospital.

1944

Blank Children's Hospital is dedicated.

1945

The Pediatric Residency Program begins at Blank Children's Hospital under the direction of Lee Forest Hill, M.D. Blank Children's is one of two teaching hospitals in the state training future pediatricians.

1947

Raymond Blank Hospital Guild forms to support the services of Blank Children's Hospital. Because of the overwhelming number of children hospitalized for polio, Blank Children's is expanded to add more patient rooms.

1948

When the polio epidemic strikes the Midwest, Blank Children's Hospital becomes a statewide center for the care of hundreds of children.

1950

Iowa records the highest polio rate in the United States during this year. Blank Children's Hospital staff cared for 252 patients. Two years later, 570 children were treated at Blank Children's and 560 of them survived.

1951

Blank Children's Hospital constructs its first nursery for high-risk infants featuring ultra-violet light banks to eliminate bacteria and viruses.

1956

The first pediatric open heart surgery outside the Mayo Clinic is performed successfully on a 6-year old Blank Children's Hospital patient.

1957

Blank Children's Hospital Pediatric Residency Program hosts the first-ever Spring Conference addressing important pediatric health and wellness topics for pediatricians and family practice physicians across Iowa.

The tiniest surviving baby is born at 1 pound, 13 ounces.  His first three months of life are spent in the premie nursery.

1958

The Raymond Blank Memorial Hospital Guild provides funding for a poison information center. During the first six months of operation, 222 children benefit from its service.

1961

The Blank Guild purchases two incubators for the care of infants born prematurely.

1964

Pediatric carts carrying specialized equipment are introduced in surgical recovery rooms.

1972

Blank Children's Hospital opens the neonatal intensive care unit, the first in central Iowa, and one of only three in the state under the direction of Dr. Charlotte Fisk and Dr. James Hopkins.

1974

The neonatal intensive care unit introduces an X-ray machine specifically designed for infants.

1975

The first Variety Club telethon to benefit the neonatal intensive care unit is held. A total of $50,000 is raised.

1976

With continuing support from the Variety Club, Blank Children's Hospital neonatal intensive care unit is renamed and dedicated as the Variety Club Intensive Care Nursery (NICU).

1979

Plans are announced to build a Ronald McDonald House to provide lodging for families of hospitalized children. Des Moines joins only seven other cities in the United States with Ronald McDonald housing.

1980

Blank Children's Hospital establishes the NICU transport team where specially-trained professionals transport high-risk infants to the Variety Club Intensive Care Nursery.

1981

The new Blank Children's Hospital building is completed and patients are moved in.

1983

The first Festival of Tress & Lights fundraiser is held to raise money for programs and services at Blank Children's Hosiptal.

1986

Iowa's first Children's Cancer Center opens at Blank Children's Hospital. Blank Children's is one of two hospitals in the state caring for children with cancer.

1991

Variety Club Pediatric Therapy Services opens at Blank Children's Hospital to provide a centralized location for children's rehabilitation services including: Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech/Language Pathology and Audiology Services.

1992

Blank Children's establishes the Greater Des Moines SAFE KIDS Coalition. "Project Safety", Blank Children's first bicycle safety program begins.

1993

Blank Children's Hospital establishes a Child Life Department to help children cope and understand their medical situations.

Karen Gerdes, MD, pediatric critical care physician, joins Blank Children's Hospital. She is the first pediatric intensivist in Iowa.

1994

Blank Children's Hospital introduces its Fire Safety House to teach children fire prevention and survival skills.

Iowa's only dedicated pediatric emergency department opens at Blank Children's Hospital.

Blank Children's Hospital becomes the lead organization for the Greater Des Moines SAFE KIDS Coalition, an organization dedicated to preventing childhood injuries.

1995

The first child advocate is hired at Blank Children's Hospital to actively promote health, safety and well-being of children.

1996

Blank Children's Hospital creates Iowa's only dedicated pediatric transport team, which transported more than 130 critically-ill and injured children in its first year of service.

1997

Blank Children's Hospital Guild celebrates 50 years of supporting programs for children.

The family-centered care program is started at Blank Children's Hospital and continues to serve as the overarching philosophy for patient care.

The John R. Grubb-Variety Club Children's Health Center opens providing comprehensive medical care for children in one outpatient location.  The Variety Club Intensive Care Nursery celebrates "25 Years of Tiny Miracles."

The world's first surviving septuplets are cared for in the Variety Club Intensive Care Nursery.

1998

Blank becomes the lead organization for the statewide Iowa SAFE KIDS Coalition.

Blank Children's Hospital receives approval from the UnityPoint Health - Des Moines Facilities Council to perform pediatric kidney and liver transplants as part of the new Central Iowa Transplant Association.

The Dr. Jack Spevak Visiting Professorship begins through an endowment in his memory from family and friends. The first visiting professor is William Zinkham, MD.

1999

Blank Children's Hospital becomes the lead agent for the Iowa SAFE KIDS Coalition.

The Family Resource Library opens at Blank Children's Hospital. The library was made possible through a grant from the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Blank Children's Hospital embarks on a $15.4 million community capital campaign to redesign and renovate the hospital to better meet the needs of children and their families.

2000

The groundbreaking ceremony for the "new" Blank Children's takes place. Myron Blank, Raymond's brother, is present to assist in the groundbreaking.

Candidate forums are hosted at Blank Children's to get local political candidates to voice their stance on children's issues.

Blank Children's Hospital, with National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), completes the first presidential candidate survey with responses included in The Des Moines Register.

Blank Children's Hospital receives the first-ever NACHRI award for Advocacy.

2001

Blank Children's Hospital restructures its bicycle safety program and names it "All Heads Covered".

Blank Children's Hospital opens its newly renovated, all private-room facility. The Variety Club Intensive Care Nursery becomes one of the first in the world Level III private room neonatal intensive care units.

2002

Blank Children's Hospital launches a web page to provide child passenger safety information and assistance to parents and caregivers across Iowa.

Blank Children's Hospital performs its very first pediatric da Vinci Surgical System surgery. Drs. Michael Irish and Stephen Wolf perform the surgery. Blank Children's is the only hospital in Iowa utilizing the da Vinci® Surgical Systemin pediatric surgeries.

The Regional Child Protection Center (RCPC) opens at Blank Children's Hosiptal. The RCPC is under the medical direction of Rizwan Shah, MD, nationally-recognized child abuse and neglect physician.

The Advocacy and Outreach Departments at Blank Children's Hospital hosts the first ever Child and Youth Injury Prevention Conference with keynote speaker Christine Branche, Ph.D., director of unintentional injury prevention at the Centers for Disease Control.

2003

Medical Outreach initiated the Just for Kids Care Cart to provide neonatal and pediatric equipment and supplies to health care providers across Iowa.

Dr. Michael Irish, pediatric surgeon, operated on the youngest and smallest patient in the world using the da Vinci® Surgical System.

The Advocacy and Outreach Department obtained the Robert Wood Johnson Grant to start an Injury Free Coalition for Kids in the Des Moines area.

2004

The smallest baby ever born in Iowa and the third smallest male baby to survive in the world was born at Iowa Methodist Medical Center (IMMC) and cared for at Blank Children's Hospital.  John Shirley weighed just 325 grams, or 11.5 ounces, and measured only 10.25 inches long.  Today, John is a happy, healthy little boy.

2005

Blank Children's Hospital purchased a brand new, completely wheelchair-accessible Fire Safety House. The 38-foot fire safety tool will be utilized by schools and fire departments statewide to teach thousands of children about fire safety.

2006

The Wishes Endowment is created by the UnityPoint Health - Des Moines Foundation to provide long-term, sustainable support for programs and services at Blank Children's Hospital.

In February, the PGA TOUR's Champions Tour selected Blank Children's Hospital, a beneficiary of the Allianz Championship, as its 2005 Charity of the Year.  The honor included a $30,000 gift to the hospital. The Allianz Championship, in its six year history, donated more than $187,000 to Blank Children's Hospital.

The new Adolescent Health Center is opened as a dedicated clinic for teens and young adults.

2007

Pediatric Endocrinology began holding outreach clinics in Ames once a month.

The Pediatric Therapy Department opened a second location in Ankeny, located next to the UnityPoint Health - Des Moines Physicians Pediatric Clinic. Services offered by Pediatric Therapy in Ankeny include physical therapy, speech/language therapy and occupational therapy.

Blank Children's Hospital added a new specialty - Pediatric Nephrology.  Ari Auron, MD, joined staff to help care for children with kidney diseases and illnesses.

2008

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that its comprehensive study to examine the effect of genes and the environment on children's health had entered the next phase of operations. Dr. Rizwan Shah, Regional Child Protection Center medical director, was name one of the principal investigators of the study for Iowa.

Blank Children's Hospital was verified as a Level II Trauma Center by the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons.

The 25th annual Festival of Trees & Lights is held, raising funds for the Child LIfe and Adovcacy & Outreach programs.

2009

Helen M. Johnson, from Webster City, left a generous estate gift, which is the single largest gift ever received at Blank Children's Hospital. More than $5 million was given to the Wishes Endowment Campaign. Her substantial gift will establish an endowment in her name and support essential programs for children where reimbursements only cover a fraction of the cost.

Surpassed the $35 million mark for the Wishes Endowment Campaign - goal is $50 million.

Launched the Mobile Simulation Program, offered by Medical Outreach, to provide hands-on education to medical professions in their hospitals and clinics.Dr. Michael Irish, pediatric surgeon, was the first surgeon in Iowa to perform minimally-invasive single incision appendectomy and cholecystectomy on patients using new surgery technology.

Launched our new Neonatal & Pediatric Critical Care Ambulance for use by the Neonatal and Pediatric Transport Teams. It's the only ambulance of it's kind in the region, and offers the ability to transport more than one patient in addition to family members. The ambulance was made possible by a generous gift from Variety - The Children's Charity.

Center for Advocacy and Outreach was recognized by the United Way of Central Iowa with the 2009 Live United Advocate Award.

2010

Methodist West Hospital delivered its first baby on January 4, 2010. To provide the best in care to newborns, 24/7 neonatal coverage is provided by Blank Children's Hospital at Methodist West and Iowa Lutheran hospitals.

Governor Chet Culver proclaimed February 18 as Critical Care Transport Nurses Day - following a letter from UnityPoint Health - Des Moines making the request.  The day honored the Neonatal Transport Team and Pediatric Transport Team at Blank Children's. 

On April 19 the new BCH ambulance was used to transport a pediatric patient to Iowa City who was on an oscillating ventilator. It is thought that this was the first time in the U.S. that a baby has been transported by ground with an oscillating ventilator.

On April 22, IMMC and BCH delivered its first set of quadruplets. A team of 27 medical professionals helped with the delivery and care of the infants. 

Blank Children's Hospital played a role in the successful passage of the state of Iowa's enhanced seatbelt law. Our grassroots advocacy network along with health care professionals and families reached out to legislators to encourage the passage in order to protect and save the lives of children as back-seat passengers. 

2011

Blank Children's partnered with Iowa State Athletics for a new Kid Captain program. Nominations were taken over the summer from parents, nominating their child for the program. Seven Kid Captains were selected and were recognized at home ISU football games.  One Kid Captain was recognized per game by going out on the field for the coin toss at home games with the Cyclone team captains. An additional 9 patients were given tickets to home games. In total 29 children were nominated for the program.

A dream many years in the making, the Developmental Center opened to help provide diagnosis, early intervention and care for children with developmental related conditions as well as physical limitations. The Developmental Center was made possible due to tremendous support from the community.  

2012

Blank Children's Hospital was re-verified by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma as a Level 2 Pediatric Trauma Center. This is in conjunction with Iowa Methodist's verification as a Level 1 Adult Trauma Center.  Blank Children's is one of two hospitals in the state of Iowa with a pediatric trauma designation by the ACS - the other hospital being the University of Iowa Children's Hospital.  


The Safety Store at Blank Children's Hospital opened in August.  The Safety Store offers a variety of low-cost safety products with one-on-one education and assistance from a safety expert on the proper use of each safety product purchased.

The ThinkFirst Iowa program provided presentations to 147 middle/high schools and 124 elementary schools educating approximately 25,000 students across the state about preventing brain and spinal cord injuries.

Blank Children's hosted a screening of the documentary "Finding Kind" on May 8 at Hoyt Sherman. The documentary was created by two young women who travelled across the country to address the issue of bullying among girls.