Every July in Utah, the pioneers are honored. In Utah’s Dixie, we honor the 200 pioneer families who, in 1861, settled Southern Utah in an effort to grow cotton.
Terri Kane, CEO of Dixie Regional Medical Center and vice president of Intermountain Healthcare’s Southwest Region, recently reflected on the many pioneers of healthcare in Dixie.
“We are always indebted to those who have gone before,” Kane said. “By definition pioneers are those who explore and settle new areas. Those who use and apply new knowledge and methods are also considered pioneers. This month I would like to honor those individuals who have pioneered excellent healthcare in our community in the past, present, and future.”
The naming of St. George occurred even before the first pioneer settlers arrived. St. George was named in honor of George Albert Smith, who was commonly known among the early Utah pioneers as “Potato Saint George.”
After losing family members to scurvy on the trek west, Smith often gave away potatoes and encouraged pioneers to eat them unpeeled. Potato Saint George may have been one of the first pioneer advocates for maintaining good health.
The original pioneers to St. George received rudimentary healthcare from dedicated individuals who cared for the physical health of the community to the best of their abilities. Practitioners such as Silas Higgins and Israel Ivins along with midwives used mostly herbal remedies to stave illness and promote health.
Later, in 1913, Dr. Frank Woodbury and his brother-in-law Dr. Donald McGregor opened the very first hospital in St. George, the Washington County Hospital, that was later renamed McGregor Hospital. Dixie Pioneer Memorial Hospital came next, followed by Dixie Medical Center, and then Dixie Regional Medical Center on two campuses.
Dixie has always been fortunate to have forward-thinking health providers. For over 100 years, a hospital and knowledgeable physicians have served the healthcare needs of the constantly growing population of Washington County. It was often said that what the earlier hospitals may have lacked in the way of modern buildings and equipment, was made up for by the efficient and caring manner the doctors and staff treated patients. Today’s expanding hospital campus is still staffed by kind and talented caregivers.
“I have seen lives saved each time we have added new services to Dixie,” Kane said. “Services such as open-heart surgery, newborn intensive care, acute rehabilitation, hyperbaric medicine, cancer services, neurosurgery, high-risk obstetrical care, Life Flight, and precision genomics for cancer are saving lives.”
The current hospital expansion is pioneering new areas of medical technology and will be home to equipment such as an intraoperative MRI and a high-tech DNA sequencing lab. Dixie is well-poised to become a destination hospital — a referral center for the care of patients with complex conditions, where people will come from surrounding states to receive care and services.
“I am often asked to articulate the vision I have for the future of Dixie Regional Medical Center,” said Kane. “I see a modern, beautiful hospital campus that complements our healing efforts for patients. I see compassionate and competent caregivers who take great pride in their work. It is a place where everyone’s highest priorities are quality, safety, efficiency, and seamless care for patients and their families.”
While the pioneer known as Potato Saint George may not have completely understood the role of vitamin C in maintaining health, it is fitting that his namesake city has become home to a pioneering beacon of health preservation — Dixie Regional Medical Center.
This LiVe Well column represents collaboration between healthcare professionals from the medical staffs of not-for-profit Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and The Spectrum & Daily News.
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Honoring Dixie’s healthcare pioneers