Unique among all pediatric programs in the country, we have the longest history of commitment to children’s health — going back before the American Revolution.
In 1767, pediatrics was part of King’s College, later known as Columbia University. It was led by one of America’s most distinguished physicians, Dr. Samuel Bard, who wrote the first textbook on obstetrics and pediatrics, describing “blue babies” and the diseases of infants in the first year of life. Dr. Bard also wrote the first paper in English on medical ethics and the first definitive description of diphtheria and served as Dean of Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The First Hospital for Children
Columbia pediatrics is also associated with the oldest babies’ hospital in New York. In an era where infectious disease was rampant, infants and children were treated – and often died – at home. In the late 1880s, two sisters, Drs. Sara and Julie McNutt, established a hospital just for infants. At the time, there were only 25 beds reserved for babies in adult institutions throughout the city.
Enlisting the help of three women on the board of the New York Infirmary, the Drs. McNutt established the Babies Hospital in a brownstone on 55th Street and Lexington Avenue, the site of Bloomingdale’s today. In 1887, the hospital affiliated with Columbia University. Its early leaders focused on milk sterilization, good nutrition, and sanitary practices. “We put the patients’ welfare ahead of every other consideration,” wrote Dr. Sara McNutt. One of America’s preeminent pediatricians, Dr. L. Emmett Holt, served as the hospital’s first medical director. His pediatric textbook, published in 1894, became a primary resource for physicians while his handbook on childcare sold millions of copies.
Joining the Columbia Campus
In 1900, the Rockefeller family funded the construction of a 10-story Babies Hospital in midtown. But by 1929, this building was no longer large enough to serve the public’s needs. Just before the stock market crash, Babies Hospital moved uptown to join the campus of Columbia University Medical Center. The new facility was located between West 165th and 168th Streets and Broadway on the grounds of a baseball field where the New York Highlanders (later renamed the New York Yankees) played in 1903. The New York Times celebrated the new Babies Hospital as “the last word in hospital design and equipment,” with private and shared patient rooms, playrooms, solariums, and a roof garden. The facilities also incorporated a nurse’s training center and dormitory, classrooms for medical students, and administrative offices.
Babies Hospital was socially progressive as well. Children of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds were cared for and shared the same activities and play areas.
Defining Modern Pediatrics
In this new building with 190 beds, our pediatricians expanded their practice, treating children up to the age of 12. After the opening of the George Washington Bridge in 1931, young patients came to us from New Jersey as well as from Manhattan and the Bronx. Under Dr. Rustin McIntosh, a famed pediatrician, Babies Hospital was among the first in the country to develop programs in neonatal care, pediatric surgery, radiology, neurology, hematology-oncology, and psychiatry. His textbook, coauthored with Dr. Holt, remained a valuable guide for doctors for the next 40 years.
In the twentieth century, Babies Hospital defined modern pediatrics. Our physicians shed light on many conditions such as the Kasabach-Merritt syndrome, McCune-Albright syndrome, Riley Day syndrome, and Shaken Baby syndrome. They also identified the difference between celiac disease and cystic fibrosis, described the sweat test for cystic fibrosis, and created the Apgar score.
In 1968, Babies Hospital added a new building adjacent to the existing one, making all clinical services available to children. Under department chair Dr. Michael Katz, a celebrated specialist in infectious diseases, Columbia surgeons performed the first pediatric heart transplant, described the syndrome of persistent fetal circulation, and developed continuous positive alveolar pressure (CPAP) for premature infants. The hospital made further advances in pediatric care under the leadership of Dr. John Driscoll, drawing patients from across the nation and worldwide.
A Child-Friendly Environment
In the 1990s, the hospital renovated the pediatric intensive care unit, featuring bright colors, oversized fantasy-themed graphics, and accommodations for parents — an advance undreamt of by its progressive founders. Praised by Interior Design magazine, these innovations made the hospital more inviting, encouraging activities with other children and ongoing contact with family members. Morgan Stanley funded these renovations, then proceeded to sponsor a much larger addition to the hospital in 2004 with an open plan, eliminating the labyrinthine hallways so confusing to patients and to visitors. Having a child in the hospital is one of the most difficult and emotional experiences a family can face. Our physicians, nurses, and staff are known for their exceptional family-centered care.
Our State-of-the-Art Facility
Our present 265,000-square-foot inpatient facility is known as the NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Completed in 2004, this is the largest and most renowned children’s facility in the tri-state area and ranks among the top in the nation in 10 pediatric specialties, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Our renowned physicians and surgeons now treat infants, children, and young people up to the age of 21. Under the direction of Dr. Jordan Orange, a leading expert on immune deficiencies, dedicated physicians and researchers are focusing on molecular genetics, precision medicine, neonatal and cardiac care, transplantation, and global health.
Recently a team of surgeons at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital made history when they saved the life of a 1-week-old baby with the aid of a 3D printed model of the child’s heart. The 3D model was used as a guide for surgery on this infant with a complex and deadly form of congenital heart disease.
Our doctors are making promising advances every day — and will continue to be at the forefront of children’s health for generations to come.