This expansion of orthopaedic work was not enough for the Shriners. They had enough funds to further expand their philanthropy. The only question was — What unmet need could they fill?
A special committee was established to explore areas of need and found that burn treatment was a field of service that was being bypassed. In the early ’60s, the only burn treatment center in the United States was part of a military complex. The committee was ready with a resolution for the 1962 Imperial Session in Toronto. This read in part:
“WHEREAS, reliable medical surveys disclose that each year thousands of children are rendered actually or potentially crippled by burns; and
“WHEREAS, the facilities in North America for research, treatment and care of such burns are inadequate and limited; and
“WHEREAS, the Shrine, as a leader of child therapy in the field of orthopaedics, can again make a contribution to medical science;
“Now therefore, be it resolved, that Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, a Colorado Corporation, do construct, establish, and operate one or more hospitals for the care and treatment of curable crippled children afflicted with acutely dangerous burns, and for research, activities, and training programs related thereto, at such place or places in North America as the Board of Trustees of the Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children may determine, at an aggregate cost not to exceed ten million dollars;
“And, be it further resolved, that the Board of Trustees be directed to proceed forthwith to cause the first proposed hospitals to be built and put in operation.”
The resolution, dated July 4, 1962, was adopted by unanimous vote.
On November 1, 1963, the Shrine opened a seven-bed wing in the John Sealy Hospital on the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston as an interim center for the care of severe burns in children. On February 1, 1964, the Shrine opened a seven-bed ward in the Cincinnati General Hospital on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. A third interim operation, a five-bed ward, was opened March 13, 1964, in the Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston) under the direction of the Harvard Medical School.
While children were being treated in these wards, separate buildings were constructed near each interim location. These buildings, three 30-bed pediatric burn hospitals, were designed to meet the special needs of burned children. At each, the staffs remain affiliated with their neighboring universities so that they may better carry out their three-fold programs of treatment, research and teaching.
The hospital in Galveston opened March 20, 1966; the hospital in <Cincinnati opened February 19, 1968; and the Boston hospital opened November 2, 1968. New facilities would be constructed for all three burn hospitals in the 1990s. The new Cincinnati and Galveston hospitals were completed in 1992, and the new facility for the burn hospital in Boston was completed in 1999.
A new burn treatment center opened in 1997 in the new Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, Calif. This newest Shriners Hospital provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care, and serves as the Shrine’s primary burn treatment center in the western United States. The Northern California Hospital also conducts research into all three disciplines.
Since the Shriners opened their burn hospitals in the 1960s, a burned child’s chance of survival has more than doubled. They have saved children burned over 90 percent of their bodies. The techniques they have pioneered to prevent the crippling effects of severe burns have made a normal life possible for thousands of burn victims.
Most importantly, perhaps, the establishment of the burn Shriners Hospitals has alerted the medical world to this special need which has, in turn, led to the establishment of non-Shrine burn centers throughout North America.
At Shriners Hospitals the work goes on, continually searching for new ways to heal severe burns and reduce or, as much as possible, eliminate the crippling and scarring effects of those burns. Because of the special nature of the burn hospitals, they will surely always be on the frontier of burn care.