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85th Anniversary Celebration

85th Anniversary of East Tennessee Children's Hospital

Celebrating 85 years and counting

East Tennessee Children's Hospital invites you to celebrate 85 years of miracles - of medicine, healing and hope. Because of support from our community, we've touched the lives of millions of children in our region and beyond. For more than eight decades, our mission has been to deliver family-centered care in a child-friendly environment. Over the coming year-long celebration, we'll reflect on this long legacy of excellence: the stories that moved us and the futures we helped build. We're also excited to share what comes next for Children's Hospital -- because it's only with continued support from you that we'll be here for another 85 years.

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The first to fill a need

ETCH Archive Photo - nurse caring for child with polio
Nurse caring for child with polio

The year was 1937.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was about to be re-elected and Joe DiMaggio would win his second World Series with the New York Yankees. The nation’s economy had not yet recovered from the Great Depression, and many would remember this decade as bleakly as the black and white photographs from our history books.

But there was hope coming to the families and young children of Knoxville.

At a time when health care looked more like house calls, and Polio plagued our nation’s youths, a group of dedicated local businessmen became the first to fill a need.

Polio (poliomyelitis) left its sufferers with devastating paralysis to various body parts, leaving some children unable to walk without braces or breathe without “iron lungs.”

ETCH Archive photo - Laurel Avenue location
Knox County Crippled Children's Hospital Laurel Avenue location

An orthopedic surgeon from Knoxville named Dr. Jarrell Penn decided to meet the growing need for long-term treatment and physical rehabilitation associated with Polio and other childhood illnesses. Dr. Penn, along with Henry Galbraith and Oscar Schwarzenberg, Sr., came together to create the Knox County Crippled Children's Association. And in March 1937, Knox County Crippled Children's Hospital opened its doors at 1912 Laurel Avenue.

ETCH Archive Photo - Early nursery at Children's Hospital
Early nursery at Children's Hospital

The original 28-bed facility provided the region's first dedicated location with family-centered pediatric care, accompanied by an atmosphere of friendliness, cooperation, and support.

The heart of Children's Hospital

ETCH Archive photo - Clinch Avenue location
East Tennessee Children's Hospital Clinch Avenue location

Over the next 85 years, the heart of Children's Hospital remained the same, even while the technology and expertise pushed the boundaries of modern medicine.

After establishing its permanent downtown location on Clinch Avenue in 1970, the number of patient beds more than tripled. East Tennessee Children's Hospital became a place for a broader range of specialized care, recruiting some of the nation's top pediatric surgeons, physicians and specialists.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Children's Hospital opened its intensive care units, including the NICU, which would treat some of our region's tiniest patients. The Hematology and Oncology Department became the first in the region to treat chronically ill children in 1979 and has significantly changed the survival rates for children diagnosed with childhood cancer.

East Tennessee Children's Hospital - present day
East Tennessee Children's Hospital - present day

Today, the 152-bed hospital is surrounded by a network of care that treats families in 18 of our East Tennessee counties, as well as areas of Kentucky and Virginia. With 32 subspecialities, 14 primary care offices, 4 urgent cares and 4 outpatient centers, East Tennessee Children's Hospital has reached children in nearly every Tennessee county by bringing world-class care with hometown heart to their back door.

What's New About Our 85th

  • Past Visitor Photo Gallery
    View photos of some notable guests who came to visit our kids at East Tennessee Children's Hospital and brought smiles to their faces.

  • Sign up for our Newsletter
    Keep up to date on all the activities, stories and memories as East Tennessee Children's Hospital celebrates 85 years.