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The University and the City
A Centennial View of the
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Chicago Lying-In Hospital cornerstone laying

Mrs. Kellogg Fairbank, President Robert M. Hutchins, Dr. Joseph B. DeLee, and Mrs. Mortimer Singer, Chicago Lying-In Hospital cornerstone laying, November 5, 1929. DeLee established Lying-In as an independent Chicago hospital in 1895 to make modern obstetric methods and sanitation available to indigent mothers. The hospital's low death rates helped convince mothers to give birth in hospitals rather than at home. Affiliation with the University gave the hospital a new building on the Midway, and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology was founded with DeLee as head.


Bobs Roberts Memorial Hospital, pediatric clinic, ca. 1940. The Bobs Roberts hospital treated patients for the Department of Pediatrics until its work was taken over by the Wyler Children's Hospital, which opened in 1967.

Science and Medicine

An Urban Research Hospital
The affiliation with Rush was always seen as temporary, although it lasted into the 1940s. Rush had a high reputation as a medical school in Chicago, but it did not represent the research-oriented methods sought by the University. In 1916 Abraham Flexner of the Rockefeller Foundation, a strong advocate of reform in medical education, reviewed the situation at the University and proposed that the University form its own medical school and hospital. The proposal was expensive but would allow the University to define and control its program from the ground up.

A total of $5.3 million was quickly pledged after plans were announced in 1916, but the war and escalating building costs stalled the opening of the school and hospital until 1927. The new 200-bed Billings Hospital allowed students to complete their full clinical training on the University campus. The Rush facility was to be used for post-graduate training and research, although those plans were never fulfilled.

The University of Chicago plan was based on the ideas of Flexner along with other physicians at the Rockefeller Institute, which emphasized the need for physicians to be salaried and independent of patient fees. Other university hospitals charged little or nothing to patients who were used in the educational process, but their doctors had private practices "on the side" to make an adequate living. In order to give its physicians full salaries, the University of Chicago had to charge patients regular fees. Using paying patients as teaching subjects was nearly unprecedented, but proved more successful than many anticipated.

Other Chicago institutions soon affiliated with the University, including Chicago Lying-In Hospital, the Country Home for Convalescent Children, the Home for Destitute Crippled Children, the Home for the Incurables, and La Rabida Children's Hospital and Research Center. Each of these added a special focus to the University's program. Recently the hospital expanded its facilities into other parts of the city through an affiliation agreement with Weiss Memorial Hospital on the North Side, the creation of a senior health center at Windermere House in East Hyde Park, and a downtown clinic.

Conceived as a research facility and without the endowment necessary to provide free services to patients, the University of Chicago hospitals and clinics nonetheless provided care to a substantial portion of the South Side population. As other hospitals on the South Side closed in the 1970s and 1980s, the University accepted larger responsibilities for the health care of those in the surrounding neighborhoods. Balancing this responsibility with the needs of research and teaching has been a constant challenge.

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