The marker recognizes the site of FAMU’s former hospital and its significant contributions to the State of Florida and the black community during an era when health care options were sparse.
The guest speaker will be FAMU alumnus Dr. Joseph Webster, founder of the Tallahassee-based Webster Surgical Center, the only black-owned ambulatory surgical center dedicated to endoscopic surgery in North Florida.
The FAMU hospital served as the only medical facility for blacks within 150 miles of Tallahassee from 1950-1971 and ushered in FAMU’s world-class nursing and pharmacy programs.
Not only did the hospital break barriers in health care education, but it also served as an example of the university’s legacy of resilience. Since the 1890s, FAMU administrators worked to establish a medical facility to serve FAMU’s campus and surrounding black communities. The existence of the hospital was birthed from then-president Thomas Tucker’s determination to create a nurse training facility on campus grounds.
Tucker’s request to fund a nurse training facility was originally denied by the Board of Education. In the early 1900s, then-President Nathan B. Young continued to work to bring a nurse training facility to FAMU. In 1909, he was ultimately successful in securing funding to construct a medical facility to house a nurse training school.
The sanitarium opened in 1911 as a wooden, 19-bed building to train nursing students. By 1926, the facility had unofficially developed into the School of Nursing and had a 100-bed capacity. This progress resulted in the development of the Florida A&M College Clinical Association in 1936.
In 1937, then-president William Gray and Dr. Leonard H.B. Foote, the first director of the FAMU hospital, embarked on a 10-year fundraising campaign to build a new hospital. During the campaign, in 1946, the sanitarium became the FAMC Hospital, Health Center and Nursing School. In the same year, Dr. Charles Drew provided free services for local and regional patients at the facility’s annual clinic.
By 1950, the university had garnered $2 million to build the fully-operational FAMU Hospital. In 1971, the hospital closed and was renovated to house the Foote-Hilyer Administration Center and Student Health Services, which still stands today. The hospital’s closure came four years after state officials decided to transfer the hospital’s funding to then-Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. In spite of its closure, the former hospital site has continued to serve the medical needs of FAMU students into the 21st century.
The event’s guest speaker has also played a significant role in serving the medical needs of the black community in the past and present.
For more than 30 years, Webster has served the FAMU community and the world, as a health educator, expert, researcher and leader in offering cutting edge medical technology to his patients. He is also the founder of Comprehensive Center for Digestive and
Nutritional Disorders and the Imhotep Health and Video Complex. After receiving his undergraduate degree from FAMU, Webster attained his doctorate in medicine from the J. Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. He completed his master’s in business administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
An installation ceremony scheduled for Feb. 28 will put the historical marker unveiled during the Black History Convocation in its permanent home, on the corner of Palmer Avenue and Adams Street.
The Black History Convocation will be broadcast live on FAMCast, which can be accessed online at: www.famu.edu/famcast
PHOTOS COURTESY OF State Archives of Florida, Floråida Memory
GIVING CARE: Nurse Grace Kyler works with polio victims at the FAMU Hospital.