In early December 1968, the newly built Bexar County Hospital admitted its first patients. It was a seminal moment in Bexar County history – transforming the Hospital District’s ability to serve the community, establishing a partnership between the District and the newly opened University of Texas Medical School in San Antonio.
It sparked a period of dramatic growth in the healthcare industry on a former dairy pastureland in Northwest San Antonio. It took place the same year the eyes of the world were on San Antonio, host to the 1968 world’s fair – HemisFair.
While the $17 million spent to construct and equip the 334-bed hospital was a great deal of money 50 years ago, it did not take long for the community to welcome the modern medical complex and appreciate how the investment would pay off for the community in the coming years. An article in a special Sunday section of the San Antonio Light in November of 1968 echoed this enthusiasm: “For not only is the 13-story structure beautiful and imposing, but its very appearance also gives promise of high-quality medical care.”
For Douglas Mitchell, the administrator of the new hospital, it was a tremendous opportunity. “We are free to progress, to experiment, to do what is needed to meet the community’s needs. There are very few other hospitals like this.”
Dr. F. Carter Pannill was the first dean of San Antonio’s new medical school. He highlighted the opening as marking, “the first time in American medical history that a medical school and hospital have been designed and built as a matched pair.”
It was an accomplishment that some thought might never come to fruition. For many years, local leaders had tried — and failed — to bring a medical school to San Antonio. In 1944, the Chamber of Commerce pursued the idea of moving Galveston’s medical school — the only state-sponsored medical school in Texas at the time. A resolution to move the school to the more centrally located San Antonio fell short in the Legislature, but gathered enough votes to fuel optimism among local leaders.
In 1947, the San Antonio Medical Foundation was incorporated and, in the years that followed, its efforts were centered on gaining political support in Austin for a San Antonio medical school and finding a suitable location. The location proved to be divisive. The Board of Managers of the Bexar