For more than a century, Erlanger has been central to the lives of generations of Chattanooga families-where their children were born, where they found the latest treatments for injury and disease and where the majority of the region's doctors and nurses were trained.
Erlanger was founded through the generosity of a French nobleman in 1889. Baron Frederic Emile d'Erlanger, who held financial interests in a number of railroads in this region, donated $5,000 for a new hospital. In today's dollars, this donation would equal more than $4 million.
Appreciative citizens named the hospital for the Baron's beautiful Southern wife, Baroness Marguerite Mathilde Slidell. The cornerstone for the Baroness Erlanger Hospital was laid in 1891. In 1899 the $50,000 hospital opened with 72 beds.
Soon after its opening, Erlanger formed one of the state's first nursing schools and developed a partnership with Chattanooga Medical College, now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Erlanger greeted the 20th century as an academic teaching facility, a distinction the hospital maintains today. Nurses and nursing technicians are trained at Erlanger in conjunction with UTC, Chattanooga State and other regional colleges, and doctors are trained through an affiliation with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga Unit.
By 1940, the hospital had doubled in size and opened the area's first center for cancer treatment, and the Erlanger Cancer Center remains a leader in serving the region today. The region's first open-heart surgery was performed at Erlanger in 1960, and the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease became and continues as a core service.
Erlanger has always led the region in maternity care and now offers two delivery locations. The East Campus on Gunbarrel Road is designed for low-risk patients, while the Baroness Campus downtown offers comprehensive care, including the region's only tertiary Level III care center for high-risk obstetrics.
The area's first kidney transplant was performed at Erlanger in the 1980's, and the service is still available only through the Erlanger Kidney Center. The 1980's also brought facial reconstructive expertise to Erlanger, resulting in the Tennessee Craniofacial Center, an international leader in this field. Other distinctions include a wide array of Intensive Care Units, the region's only Emergency Heart and Stroke Center and Burn Center, the Miller Eye Center, and the Erlanger Medical Mall.
T. C. Thompson Children's Hospital, founded as separate facility in 1929, became part of Erlanger and moved to the Baroness Campus in 1975. A Comprehensive Regional Pediatric Center, the highest designation in the state, Children's Hospital has physicians in virtually every pediatric subspecialty. The Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit provides the region's highest level of care for premature and sick infants.
With the region's only Level I Trauma Center and the region's only air ambulance, LIFE FORCE, Erlanger can deliver life-saving treatment as quickly as possible. The hospital serves patients from 50 counties within a 150-mile radius.
Today, Erlanger encompasses five campuses-North, East/Women's East, Bledsoe and the Baroness campus in downtown Chattanooga that includes the campus of Children's Hospital. The system runs two community health centers, Southside and Dodson Avenue.
The downtown Erlanger campus was re-dedicated in 2002 as the Baroness Campus, with a nod to the institution's long history. But sights are set on the 21st century and a continued commitment to healing, teaching and leading.