“No institution, particularly medical, stands still in development. They either go forward or stagnate.”
(Trinity Health 25th anniversary celebration, 1947)
In 1922, the year Trinity Health was founded, medical science was in its infancy. Average life expectancy for males was 47 years, and the top 10 causes of death included pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhea and premature birth.
Nonetheless, Trinity Health’s leadership aspired to a brighter future. They defined a broad mission for the young hospital. Not only would it be a place of healing, it would be a teaching center committed to training the next generation of healthcare providers.
This commitment to scientific development led to the establishment of the Trinity schools of nursing, medical technology, radiologic technology, nuclear medicine and anesthesia. It spawned physician residency programs and resulted in an approach to healthcare that was remarkably advanced. Dr. Russell Nelson, president of the American Hospital Association and director of Johns Hopkins Hospital said it best: “Trinity Hospital and Minot (are) on the road to becoming a medical center (with) a fine spirit of teaching and scientific study usually found only in university medical centers – a spirit which has led to not only growth but also very high quality medical care to the people.”
In 1925, a figure important to Trinity’s advancement arrived on the scene. Dr. Angus Cameron, founder of the Northwest Clinic and Chief of Surgery at Trinity Hospital for many years, joined the medical staff. A Midwest native, Dr. Cameron came to Minot from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine where he served as assistant professor of surgery.
Those who knew Cameron remember him as an impeccable surgeon who demanded the best of himself and everyone around him. Orphie Wold, longtime director of surgery, recalled one afternoon when he approached her about a boy who was very ill with spinal meningitis. He showed her a bottle of penicillin, asked her to mix it for him and to observe him while he administered the drug. “I thought that was quite remarkable,” Orphie recalls. “That was the first time that penicillin had ever been used at Trinity Hospital. Later he told me, ‘You and I saved that boy’s life’.”
Unlike some hospitals, Trinity Health had no deep-pocketed benefactor or sponsoring entity. It was formed as a charitable, not-for-profit institution dedicated to the ministry of healing. Those early days preceded modern methods of financing. Although the Trinity Health Auxiliary was a generous source of in-kind and financial support, a wide circle of friends would be needed to secure progress, and Trinity, through the Trinity Health Foundation, relied on those friends and supporters to fund its various projects.
Some 6,000 contributors were responsible for building Trinity Hospital, and those same contributors were appealed to again and again. In his dedicatory address, Board of Trustees President T.F. Gullixson expressed his gratitude: “We are trustees for thousands. We handle gifts that are holy. Among them are widows’ mites and the subscriptions coming from little farms where companionship with poverty is not unknown. These gifts are sacred and must be administered accordingly.”
When the need arose in the mid-1950s for a major modernization, contributions poured in from people of all walks of life in all regions of the northwest territory. Area newspapers followed the campaign closely, at one point telling the story of an Alexander man who appeared one day at drive headquarters and wrote out a check for $1,000. Over three years the drive came very close to its goal, raising $1.4 million of the total $2.4 million project cost.
Today, the Trinity Health Foundation has embarked on a new venture, a Capital Campaign to raise $15 million for Trinity’s new healthcare campus and medical district, scheduled to open in 2023.
Trinity Health emerged from the region’s communities, and those same communities have been instrumental in sustaining Trinity throughout its 100-year history. The Trinity Health Guest House, CancerCare Cottage, and numerous contributions benefitting cancer, heart, and hospice patients are testimonials to that community support.
The Trinity Health Foundation continues to make a positive difference in the health and wellness of the people we serve thanks to the financial stewardship of individuals, families, family foundations, corporations, foundations, civic clubs and other organizations who support Trinity’s mission. For more information, visit TrinityHealth.org/Foundation.