Celebrating Sentara Healthcare's Heritage
In 1888, a small hospital opened in Norfolk, Virginia, with a simple mission: to give the Hampton Roads community the best medical care possible.  It was on that day that Sentara Healthcare, now the premiere healthcare provider in the region and a nationally recognized leader in health care, got its start.  While much has changed since those early days, Sentara remains committed to providing the best medical care.  


The forerunner to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, the 25-bed Retreat for the Sick, opens on June 1, 1888 in downtown Norfolk.  At the time there were fewer than 200 hospitals in the entire United States.

1890s In 1891, Hampton Training School for Nurses, is founded by Alice Mabel Bacon. It opens as a two-room facility with a handful of staff and a horse drawn wagon for an ambulance. In 1892, it moves to a new site and becomes known as "Dixie Hospital." It would one day become Sentara CarePlex Hospital.
In 1892, the Retreat for the Sick starts Norfolk's first nursing school. 
In 1896, the Retreat for the Sick moves to a new location in Norfolk and in 1898 is renamed  Norfolk Protestant Hospital.
1900s In 1903, Sarah Leigh Hospital, a 28-bed facility, is founded by Dr. Southgate Leigh in downtown Norfolk. The forerunner to Sentara Leigh Hospital includes a unique design that is considered  "ahead of the times," with round corners for easy cleaning, a basement-based air cooling system and fire protection and sound control. 
In 1903, Norfolk Protestant Hospital moves to Raleigh Avenue in Norfolk.  And in 1906, a fire swept through the hospital.  No lives were lost.
1910s In 1910, gauze face masks and rubber gloves are a standard in the operating room.  Human blood types had been charted, the blood pressure cuff is invented and the first electrocardiograms are available.
In 1913, the new Dixie Hospital is complete.  It has the most advanced diagnostic and technological capabilities available at the time and features private and semi-private rooms. 
1920s In 1921, X-ray machines are first used at area hospitals.
In 1925, Bell Hospital opens in Williamsburg.  It would one day become Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center.
By 1926, Norfolk Protestant Hospital has diagnostic laboratories, a full-time radiologist and a full-time pathologist.  A new concept of departmentalization is developed, enabling more than 40 physicians on staff to concentrate on healing rather than providing all aspects of care.
1930s In 1932, the Emerson Respirator, also known as an iron lung, provides mechanical ventilation for hospital patients who could not breathe for themselves.
By 1936, Norfolk Protestant Hospital is renamed Norfolk General Hospital and Sarah Leigh Hospital is renamed Leigh Memorial Hospital.
1940s In 1946, the Leigh Memorial Hospital School of Practical Nursing becomes the first program in the United States that is co-sponsored by vocational education and carried on entirely in a hospital.
In 1948, the first hospital in Virginia Beach opens at 25th Street and Arctic Avenue.  Dr. Waller L. Taylor, Sr., and Dr. Herman F. Dormire invested $150,000 to build the 25-bed facility.
1950s   In 1951, the original Louise Obici Memorial Hospital in Suffolk is dedicated.
And in 1958, Norfolk General Hospital opens a new wing, doubling its capacity to 475 beds.
In 1959, Dixie Hospital relocates to a new facility on Victoria Boulevard in Hampton.
1960s In 1961, General Hospital of Virginia Beach, begins serving patients at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.  It would one day become Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Across the water, the new Williamsburg Community Hospital opens replacing the antiquated Bell Hospital.
In 1965, Virginia Beach General Hospital relocates to its present site in Virginia Beach.
Then in 1967, Norfolk General Hospital becomes the site of the first open-heart surgery in the region.
1970s In 1972, Norfolk General Hospital and Leigh Memorial Hospital merge to form Medical Center Hospitals. 
Also in 1972, Leigh Memorial Hospital opens the state's first free-standing ambulatory surgical center and Dixie Hospital is renamed Hampton General Hospital.
In 1975, Bayside Hospital opens in Virginia Beach.
In 1977, Leigh Memorial Hospital moves to its present location in Norfolk. 
In 1979, Norfolk General Hospital develops as a tertiary center.
1980s In 1981, Elizabeth Carr, America's first in-vitro baby, is delivered at Norfolk General Hospital.
In 1982, Nightingale air ambulance service, home healthcare agency, nursing homes and urgent care centers all become part of Medical Center Hospitals.
In 1983, Life Care is created.
In 1984, Optima Health Plan HMO is introduced.
In 1985, Norfolk General Hospital becomes a Level 1 Shock Trauma Center.
And in 1986, the system adopts the name Sentara.
In 1988, Sentara merges with Hampton General Hospital.
In 1989, Sentara performs Hampton Roads' first heart transplant surgery.
1990s In 1991, Sentara acquires Bayside Hospital in Virginia Beach.
In 1994, Optima Family Care Medicaid HMO is introduced.
In 1995, Sentara CarePlex Outpatient Center opens on the Peninsula.
In 1996, Sentara establishes a formal affiliation with Williamsburg Community Hospital.
In 1997, Optima Health receives its first National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) accreditation.
In 1998, Sentara merges with Tidewater Health Care in Virginia Beach.  And in that same year, the Sentara Health Foundation is established to improve health and quality of life and to further Sentara's not-for-profit mission of serving the community.
2000s In 2000, Sentara is the first in the nation to pioneer and develop the eICU, a remote monitoring system for intensive care.
And in 2001, Sentara is recognized nationally as the top integrated healthcare network in the country as published in Modern Healthcare's annual survey of the "Top 100 Integrated Healthcare Networks" in the nation.
In 2002, Sentara CarePlex Hospital opens in Hampton replacing Hampton General Hospital.  And, Sentara merges with Williamsburg Community Hospital.
In that same year, the new Obici Hospital located on Godwin Boulevard in Suffolk opens. 
In 2004, Sentara's Culture of Safety initiative is recognized by the American Hospital Association, which awards Sentara Norfolk General Hospital the Quest for Quality award.
In 2005, Sentara is awarded the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality award from the Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO) and the National Quality Forum.
Also in 2005, for the eighth straight year, all commercial HMO products administered by Optima Health earn the highest NCQA accreditation. 
Sentara Heart Center and West Wing at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital open in 2005.
In 2006, Sentara Heart Hospital, the region's only dedicated heart hospital opens.  Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center opens on the Peninsula replacing Williamsburg Community Hospital and Sentara Princess Anne comprehensive health campus opens in Virginia Beach.
In 2006, Obici Health System officially joins Sentara.
Sentara continues to receive national recognition by consistently ranking among the nation's top 100 integrated healthcare networks as published in Modern Healthcare.  Sentara is the only healthcare system to be ranked in the nation's top 10 all ten years the survey has been conducted.