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A history of care

Nearly a century ago, the first children’s hospital in Fort Worth opened with 30 beds and a promise to provide every child in the area access to medical care. From these humble beginnings Cook Children's has grown to become one of the largest and most recognized freestanding children’s health care systems in the southwest. But one thing remains the same: the promise we made long ago, and intend to keep for generations to come.

A history of care 

The Beginning

What is known today as Cook Children's Health Care System began with two visions of delivering health care in Fort Worth that eventually merged into one commitment to the health and well-being of children in the communities we serve. Here is where our story starts.

The first children’s hospital in the area began with the organization of the Fort Worth Free Baby Hospital on March 21, 1918, under the leadership of Mrs. Ida L. Turner, a former postmistress. Named for its access to care for infants and toddlers, regardless of a parent or guardian’s ability to pay, the hospital was first located at 2400 Winton Terrace West, near the present campus of Texas Christian University. All of the building materials and furnishings for the hospital were donated, and in 1922, a second floor was added to the building to accommodate older children and adolescents. Eventually, the hospital was renamed Fort Worth Children’s Hospital. In 1961, under the leadership of Mrs. Nenetta Burton Carter and the Woman's Board of the Fort Worth Children's Hospital, a new facility was completed at 1400 Cooper Street, adjacent to the Harris Methodist Hospital. This facility continued to operate independently until 1985, when it merged with what was then Cook Children's Hospital.


The roots of the former Cook Children's Hospital go back to January 29, 1929, when the W. I. Cook Memorial Hospital opened at 1212 West Lancaster Street in Fort Worth. The original hospital, designed in Italian Renaissance architecture, had 55 beds. Mrs. Missouri Matilda Nail Cook dedicated the oil royalties from the Cook Ranch near Albany, Texas, to build and sustain the hospital's mission. When the polio epidemic was spreading in the United States in 1952, the board of trustees of the W. I. Cook Memorial Hospital studied the special needs of children, voted to expand the facility to 72 beds with a special grant from the Tom B. Owens Trust, and changed its mission to care exclusively for the needs of children. Thus, the trustees renamed the facility Cook Children's Hospital, which continued to operate independently until the 1985 merger with the Fort Worth Children’s Hospital.


The 1980s

In 1980, under the leadership of Mr. I. Jon Brumley, the two children's hospitals in Fort Worth formed the Children's Hospitals Coordinating Board and began negotiations to merge their facilities. The original eight members of the Coordinating Board were M. Ward Bailey, Robert M. Bass, I. Jon Brumley, Charlie L. Hillard, J. Walton Lawrence, Jr., D.D.S., Joe K. Pace, John M. Stevenson, and Edward E. Stocker. In April 1982, Mr. Russell K. Tolman was hired by the Children's Hospitals Coordinating Board to administer the hospitals jointly and plan for their ultimate combination. In September 1982, during a combined board meeting, the medical staffs of the two hospitals, under the leadership of Hinton H. Hamilton, III, M.D., requested permission from the boards to combine into a single staff.

At the same combined board meeting, the trustees discussed the need to proceed with the combination of the two hospitals. This was enthusiastically approved. After architectural and financial feasibility studies were completed in 1983, trustee Robert M. Bass served as Chairman of the Merger Committee and hired the law firm of Kelly, Hart & Hallman to bring the matter before the 141st State District Court, presided over by Judge James Wright. After several days of testimony regarding the benefits of a new pediatric hospital, Judge Wright approved the "Plan of Merger and Combination" in January 1985. On April 29, 1985, Robert M. Bass was elected the founding Chairman, with John M. Stevenson, Vice Chairman, R. Denny Alexander, Treasurer, and M. Ward Bailey, Secretary. The new 183-bed Cook Fort Worth Children's Medical Center was begun in 1987 and completed in May 1989. The Board of Trustees approved shortening the name to Cook Children's Medical Center in June 1995.

The 1990s

The early 1990s were a period of rapid change in the health care industry. HMO's and managed care were driving down the cost of health care insurance by contracting with hospitals and physicians. To improve the health status of our community's children and to prepare for the era of managed care, the board of trustees formed the Cook Children's Health Care System in December 1995. The system consisted of Cook Children's Medical Center, Physician Network of nearly 200 pediatricians and specialists, Home Health, and Health Plan, Northeast Hospital, Pediatric Surgery Center and Health Foundation. Now 393 employed providers when you include PNPs and CRNAs.

The 21st Century

As the 21st Century began, Cook Children's added more than $100 million in new facilities to serve the children of North Texas. Cook Children's Northeast Hospital, offering outpatient surgery and urgent care, opened in Hurst, Texas, in 2001. Also in 2001, a child development center operated jointly with Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, and a parking garage opened on the medical center campus. In 2003, a $53 million addition brought a four-floor patient pavilion and critical care areas to the medical center and increased bed capacity to 282. In 2004, a fracture clinic, urgent care center and heliport were added to the medical center campus. Continued construction added more heart center catheterization and heart surgery facilities to the medical center in 2005.


In 2006, Cook Children's Medical Center was recognized as a Nurse Magnet-designated organization. This recognition of quality patient care and nursing excellence has been achieved by only 5 percent of health care organizations nationwide.

In January 2007, Cook Children's opened the first dual-room IMRIS intraoperative Magnetic Resonance Imaging suite for pediatric patients in the world, performing more neurosurgeries in the first six months of operation than any other IMRIS installation to date.

Also in 2007, Cook Children's was ranked as one of Child Magazine's Best Children's Hospital in the nation for its delivery of patient-centered clinical care and was one of only 41 hospitals, including eight children's hospitals, in the nation to be named to the 2007 Leapfrog Top Hospitals list, a rating system that provides an up-to-the minute assessment of a hospital's quality and safety.

In August 2007, Rick W. Merrill became the new President and CEO of Cook Children's. Merrill's selection came following an exhaustive nationwide search, which lasted more than a year. Merrill, a respected leader in the pediatric health care industry, replaced Russell K. Tolman, who retired after 25 years of dedicated service.

Under Merrill's leadership Cook Children's began a new era of "promise." Cook Children's new promise is: "Knowing that every child's life is sacred, it is the promise of Cook Children's to improve the health of every child in our region through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury."


This promise was demonstrated in many ways throughout 2008, including Cook Children's response to Mayor Mike Moncrief's call to aid in the homeless initiative. Cook Children's stepped in to help the more than 1,000 homeless children in Tarrant County by offering to provide health care to homeless children who live at local emergency shelters. Cook Children's provides case managers to work with families at the shelters to help them get access to necessary health care and resources. Through a generous donation from the Cook Children's Woman's Board, a van and driver are available transport children and parents to the Miller Neighborhood Clinic and the Arlington Neighborhood Clinic to receive primary health care. Cook Children's also provides a financial counselor to provide on-site enrollment in Medicaid.

Cook Children's supports five neighborhood clinics -- at Northside Drive (Jacksboro Highway), Miller Avenue, McCart Avenue and 8th Avenue in Fort Worth, and Cooper Street in Arlington. Education and treatment go hand-in-hand at the neighborhood clinics, founded to provide medical homes for the homeless, as well as children with limited access to a primary care physician, and in areas with large numbers of children whose families qualify for Medicaid or TexCare Partnership (CHIP) insurance programs.

The medical center has grown its services around the region by partnering with physicians to provide pediatric surgery in east Denton County and in Plano, purchasing land for future growth in Denton, and building a new primary care clinic in Mansfield.

Cook Children's continued to establish its Neurosciences program as one of the elite in the nation, offering the first independent, pediatric hospital in the nation, and the only children's hospital in Texas, with a comprehensive movement disorder program that includes deep brain stimulation (DBS).

In 2008, Cook Children's was named to U.S. News & World Report's list of top children's hospitals in the nation, marking the first time Cook Children's was named to the list of America's Best Hospitals with a No. 25 ranking for Heart & Surgery and No. 29 for Respiratory Disorders. In 2009, Cook Children's was again named to this prestigious list, ranking No. 24 in Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders, No. 27 in Respiratory Disorders, No. 27 in Neurology and Neurosurgery and No. 29 in Hematology and Oncology. 2010 brought yet another honor with Cook Children's ranking at No. 29 in Pulmonology.

The work of Cook Children's goes beyond its own system. Cook Children's Community Health Outreach Department (CHO) works collaboratively with community partners to improve the health of children through education, advocacy disease and injury prevention outreach programs.

Their efforts focus on underserved children as well as health issues which have serious impact on children. The Community Health Outreach Department is often times the face of Cook Children's as its members participate in many activities outside of the system. CHO provides the leadership for nationally recognized coalitions devoted to causes including the prevention of accidental childhood injuries and the improvement of children's oral health.


While Cook Children's has a rich history, the present may be the most exciting time ever at Cook Children's. We are expanding to meet the ever growing needs of our community. Last year, children turned to Cook Children's for medical care nearly one million times. The Cook Children's Emergency Department alone encountered nearly 100,000 urgent or emergency patient visits.

In the year 2020, the population of Fort Worth is projected to increase by an additional 800,000 people over 2005 levels. That growth will come on the heels of more than 38 percent growth since 1990. Cook Children's has to grow to meet the needs of the ever expanding population.

The expansion project began in May 2009, with a focus on the north inpatient tower, which includes the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Neurosciences, Hematology and Oncology and family amenities floor. Phase 2, which began in October 2009, emphasized the medical office building, which housed all 18 outpatient specialty clinic, a new ambulatory surgery center, outpatient radiology and dialysis and infusion units of the Hematology and Oncology Center.

Phase 3 of the project will include the expansion of the Emergency department at Cook Children's. For the people of the Fort Worth area, Cook Children's Medical Center is the place to take their child in a medical emergency.

Last year, Cook Children's Emergency department was visited more than 70,000 times. When combined with nearly 37,000 in the adjacent Urgent Care area, our emergency service area is currently operating at well above 200 percent of its designed capacity.

At the end of the historic expansion:


Cook Children's continues to expand its care in surrounding areas including Mansfield, Plano, Southlake and Grapevine.

In order to work toward keeping our promise, reaching out to the community has become more important than ever for Cook Children's. Cook Children's has five Neighborhood Clinics that provide "medical homes" to underserved children.

The newest Neighborhood Clinic is The Morris Foundation Center for Innovation in Children's Health, located at 1729 Eighth Avenue in Fort Worth. The Morris Center offers original and innovative ways of providing community health care for children who may normally miss out on the latest in leading edge technology and treatments. Innovation is a key component of how Cook Children's cares for children. The Community-wide Children's Health Assessment & Planning Survey (CCHAPS) is a first-of-its kind endeavor conducted by Cook Children's and provides and unrivaled view of the state of children's health in our six-county service area.

Recognizing that there was very little children's health data at the local level, Cook Children's worked with the community to craft a comprehensive survey of parents, children, opinion leaders and health professionals to evaluate the state of children's health in the region. Exceeding projections, Cook Children's collected responses from more than 9,000 individuals.

Cook Children's has accomplished so much and yet in many ways we've only just begun the journey of keeping our promise for every child in our region.


Cook Children's measure success by the improved health of children in our region. That is why our team continues to work collaboratively with community partners to address identified pediatric health needs in our area.

We’ve established The Center for Children’s Health to provide the infrastructure to help us sustain our Community-wide Children’s Health Assessment & Planning Survey (CCHAPS) and the resulting initiatives born from the data. Through CCHAPS, we’ve identified seven child health issues: abuse, access to care, asthma, dental health, mental health, obesity and safety. In response, we are teaming up with others within our six-county service area to develop targeted plans of action to tackle these issues.

In our ongoing effort to address access to care, we continue to expand and grow both our main campus and the services we provide in the community. In April 2011, we opened Cook Children's Urgent Care and Pediatric Specialties in Southlake; offering multiple services in one convenient location for Southlake and surrounding communities. In response to increased patient volume at our neighborhood clinics, we moved our Northside Fort Worth clinic to expand our capacity to care for the broad spectrum of needs of all children in our community.

Through the historic expansion of our medical center, we’ve nearly doubled the size of our campus. Bringing together our inpatient and outpatient services, we’ve integrated the point of care while paying particular attention to enhancing the patient and family experience. By expanding our programs, services and amenities, we’ve augmented our capacity to meet the growing need for our services and transformed how we will care for generations of children.

Our team is committed to making our community the best place in the country to raise a child. It is an investment, and a promise, that we take seriously.


Cook Children's 2012 Timeline 

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