Dr. Robert Edwards, left, the Rev. James Browder III, and Claire Richard (behind Edwards and Browder) were among the many people who attended the 50th anniversary of Southampton Memorial Hospital. Edwards, a doctor of internal medicine, began his career there on July 1, 1965. -- Stephen Cowles | Tidewater News
Dr. Robert Edwards, left, the Rev. James Browder III, and Claire Richard (behind Edwards and Browder) were among the many people who attended the 50th anniversary of Southampton Memorial Hospital. Edwards, a doctor of internal medicine, began his career there on July 1, 1965. -- Stephen Cowles | Tidewater News

Archived Story

Golden anniversary for SMH

Published 9:51am Friday, June 14, 2013
Franklin City School Board Chairman Edna King with Phil Wright II, chief executive officer of Southampton Memorial Hospital, at the 50th anniversary celebration of of the hospital. -- Stephen Cowles | Tidewater News
Franklin City School Board Chairman Edna King with Phil Wright II, chief executive officer of Southampton Memorial Hospital, at the 50th anniversary celebration of of the hospital. — Stephen Cowles | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Just like Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Robert Edwards remembered, Southampton Memorial Hospital’s journey to its 50th anniversary began on a bright day in May 1963, which is when the facility was dedicated

Speaking before a large audience of hospital staff and guests, Edwards was among the guest speakers for the hospital’s golden celebration, held under fan-cooled tents in front of the facility.

Born and raised in Franklin, he began work in internal medicine there two years later on July 1, 1965. Soon after, many doctors were taking vacations and referred their patients to Edwards that month.

“I thought I had died and gone to the other place,” he recalled, adding that he quickly got his bearings and pressed on.

Edwards also remembered how new and well-equipped SMH was then for a rural hospital, starting with its coronary care.

“Many nurses have contributed greatly to the success of this unit,” he said, adding that hospital growth continued with the construction of East Pavilion in 1978, the Women’s Center in 1980 and The Village at Woods Edge in 1989.

“One cannot talk about the hospital without mentioning Sol Rawls,” Edwards said, pointing out how much Rawls did in the way of investing money, obtaining grants and donating land. He became the first board chairman and stayed on for 20 years.

“He’s an acute businessman, but also one with honesty and integrity,” said Edwards. “He’s really the father of Southampton Memorial Hospital.”

“It’s been quite a journey and one I’m glad I took with the hospital,” Edwards continued. “In 50 more years, another group can say the hospital continues the vision.”

Phil Frankfort, Hunter Darden Jr. and Rawls were recognized for their work as founding board members. Frankfort was the only person able to attend, and given a rocking chair as a token of appreciation.

Christopher Bailey, senior vice president of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, was another speaker for the occasion.

He noted that 50 years ago: there was neither Medicare nor Medicaid, which didn’t come about until 1965; U.S. spending on health care was $150 per capita; today it’s $8,500 per capita. Bailey added that deaths by cardiovascular ailments has been cut in half within those 50 years, and deaths by accidents have also greatly reduced thanks to good trauma care and public awareness.

Today, Bailey said, “there is remarkable change. Transformational change, some call it.”

He said rapid consolidation of health care systems in Virginia is one example. Establishing unity and standardizations in health care are other examples. Medicaid reform and expansion will be what Bailey called a “bridge-builder.”

“Virginia is blessed to have a high-value health care system, but there’s always room for improvement,” he said.

“We’re poised for a renaissance,” said Phil Wright II, SMH chief executive officer. He said the Skilled Nursing Facility will be getting a facelift, and that Southampton Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center is expected to open this fall.

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