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White Memorial documents its 100-year history


White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles has launched a yearlong celebration in honor of its 100th birthday in September 2013.

The tribute to the hospital’s history began with a gala in October, followed with a tree-lighting ceremony in December. In addition to events celebrating its centennial, the hospital is going to great lengths to document its history.

“We have interviewed hundreds of employees — many of them nurses who have been here for 30 years,” said Lynne Whaley, RN, MS, senior vice president for clinical operations and CNE at White Memorial. “They have fabulous stories that they are going to be telling in the book … coming out the first of this year, called ‘The Inspiring 100-Year Story of White Memorial: A Journey of Faith and Healing.’”

Whaley, who worked on the centennial planning committee, said staff researched the hospital’s history and illustrated it on storyboards displayed in the lobby.

“When you go back to the beginning, in the early 1900s,” Whaley said, “the chief nurse executive … used to be called the superintendent of nursing. When you look at these incredibly strong ladies, you can tell they just weren’t going to be messed with. They ran the hospital.”

The book compares today’s hospital with the small medical clinic that opened nearly a century ago and was staffed by Loma Linda University medical students who provided free exams for local residents. The clinic’s founders, Seventh-day Adventists, believed health and wellness resulted from proper nutrition, fresh air, water and exercise. Their revolutionary thinking occurred during a time when tobacco was prescribed for lung conditions, and bathing was thought to cause disease, according to hospital press materials.

With a commitment to faith-based care, the hospital thrived through wars, earthquakes, financial crises and more. During the Great Depression in 1930, for example, patients paid for services with flour, sugar or other household goods. Medical students worked as janitors for free, and nurses made free home visits, according to press materials.

Charge nurse Nilda Castro, RN, BSN, has been with the hospital 30 years. She started in a two-story building and now is happy to be working in what she said is a modern, sixth-floor telemetry and stroke unit. Nursing care has become more technically complex, Castro said. Three decades ago, she remembered, each nurse cared for six patients at a time, with no aides to help.

“We are more in charge of not only patient care but also [of things like]making sure that we are meeting the criteria level of why the patient is on telemetry care, why the patient is on stroke care, and also different types of core measures,” Castro said.

She said she has grown in the profession by focusing more on compassionate care, which her employer also emphasizes.

“We try to listen [to patients]and provide our care to improve patient experiences,” she said.

Today’s hospital looks nothing like the one-story clinic buildings of the early 1900s. The 353-bed, acute care teaching hospital admitted nearly 20,000 patients in 2011 and has 1,879 employees, including 609 nurses, according to hospital press materials. However, the institution has preserved what its founders wanted: care for the community, faith-based care and academics. It’s a big place, but a familylike environment, said Hilda Padilla, RN, a recovery nurse in White Memorial’s PACU.

Padilla, a unit secretary when she joined White Memorial in 2001, became a nurse while working at the hospital.

“I saw the nurses and how they worked. I saw they were happy helping people,” Padilla said. “I grew up in this area and still live here. I feel I can help my community by being a nurse in my community. [White Memorial] saw me grow. They pushed me through nursing school. They encouraged me to keep growing. They want me to excel.”

For more on the centennial, visit


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Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer. Send letters to or post a comment below.

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