Creating Cleveland Clinic

The Cleveland Clinic was founded on February 5, 1921. Frank E. Bunts, George W. Crile, and William E. Lower volunteered to serve their country as field surgeons and physicians in the Medical Corps of the United States Army during World War I. The military hospital experience impressed these men with the efficiency of an organization that included every branch or specialty of medicine and surgery. By the time that they returned home, Bunts, Crile and Lower had recognized the benefits that could be obtained from cooperation by a group of specialists. Along with John Phillips, they came together to found the Cleveland Clinic.

Many private practices and physicians were against the concept of opening a group practice. They believed that such a wealth of resources available to a group might give them an unfair competitive advantage. Fortunately, the founders of the Clinic were professors in one or more of the Cleveland medical schools and all had served as presidents of the Academy of Medicine. A core ideal emerged to create an institution in which medicine and surgery could be practiced, studied and taught by a group of specialists.

The Cleveland Clinic officially opened for business on Monday, February 28, 1921. The beautiful new building featured four stories, of which the upper three were built around a large central well extending from the second floor up to a glass skylight. The main waiting room was located at the bottom of the well on the second floor; while the office, examination rooms and treatment rooms opened onto the elegant second floor waiting area. The x-ray department, clinical laboratories and a pharmacy were located on the first floor. The fourth floor contained the art and photography department, editorial offices, offices for administrative personnel, a library and an executive boardroom.

The hospital quickly grew in popularity and Clevelanders accepted it so enthusiastically that plans for expansion were made within the first few years after it opened. By 1928, the Cleveland Clinic was a rapidly expanding, state-of-the-art hospital full of promise with potential to become one of the leading medical institutions in the nation.