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UofL Hospital celebrates 200 years of treating patients

The image shows the beginning of a timeline of UofL Hospital. It shows a sketch of the original institution, which opened in 1823 as the Louisville Marine Hospital, along with a photo of the Falls of the Ohio. The hospital's first patients were riverboat crew members.
UofL Health
UofL Hospital celebrated its bicentennial Tuesday. The institution launched in 1823 as Louisville Marine Hospital.

Luminaries like Lonnie Ali and Gov. Andy Beshear joined University of Louisville employees Tuesday to honor the hospital’s bicentennial.

The roots of the current UofL Hospital run back to 1823. That’s when the Louisville Marine Hospital opened.

“The hospital’s foundation was built on taking care of those who no one else would take care of,” UofL Health CEO Tom Miller said at Tuesday’s celebration downtown.

The institution’s original mission was to treat riverboat crew members who were abandoned at the city’s wharf because they were sick or injured. Many of those patients were immigrants.

Miller said the hospital built an outstanding legacy.

“It became Kentucky’s first hospital, and over the next 200 years has remained at the forefront of innovation, care, compassion, breaking down access barriers and teaching,” he said.

Over the decades, the hospital changed buildings and names.

Louisville Marine Hospital became Louisville City Hospital in 1836, and soon afterward it became the teaching hospital for the Louisville Medical Institute — which is known today as the UofL School of Medicine. It eventually got the name Louisville General Hospital. Then it finally came under the university’s ownership in 1979 and became University Hospital.

UofL Health Chief Medical Officer Jason Smith said the people who’ve staffed the hospital over the past two centuries have made a real difference in the community.

“We have taken care of people of all walks of life for 200 years,” he said.

University officials said the hospital innovated the beginnings of trauma care in the United States. It was also the birthplace of international icon Muhammad Ali in 1942.

Gov. Andy Beshear, who was reelected to a second term in office last week, said UofL Hospital and its staff have provided 200 years of care, courage and compassion in Kentucky.

He praised the hospital and its team, in particular, for the “incredible care” they provided over just the past four years.

Beshear pointed to their treatment of Louisville Metro Police Officer Nickolas Wilt and other people injured in April’s mass shooting at an Old National Bank downtown, as well as to their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I saw your courage, walking into COVID wings when we did not have the PPE (personal protective equipment) we needed,” the governor said. “You all have done such phenomenal work, in the most pressing and difficult of times. And for that, I will always be eternally grateful.”

Beshear, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg and other officials emphasized on Tuesday that UofL Hospital will continue to build upon its legacy in partnership with the city and the state.

Right now, the hospital is in the midst of a $182 million expansion. The first phases of that are on track to be completed in early 2025.

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Morgan is LPM's health reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.