The 1940s-1950s
   Getting Started...


The entire hospital staff in 1947, from administrator and medical director to security guards and resident physicians, could be assembled in a small area. Today, there are over 5,000 employees on campus.

t was as if someone said 'boo' and the Army walked out," explained Bernadine Clark, the first nurse to be employed by the hospital. A nurse recruiter from General Hospital, Mrs. Clark was sent to Harbor General Hospital to recruit nurses from the Army. Instead, she was recruited by the new hospital administrator, James Smits. Her initial tour of the abandoned facility revealed gloves still drying on racks, trays of instruments in the operating room, and a warehouse full of patient-care supplies.

   Preparing the hospital to care for patients meant recruiting physicians, nurses, other health care providers and ancillary staff. Victor Maron, MD, Harbor's first medical director, arrived in mid-August, 1946 to begin the enormous task of recruiting voluntary attending physicians from Torrance, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and the South Bay beach cities. As attending physicians, these volunteers made a commitment to donate time at the hospital for three months out of the year, which meant participating in rounds one morning a week and attending conferences called grand rounds, in which they discussed notable cases with resident physicians.



Our first patients ...

   In August, 1946, a handful of Harbor General employees witnessed an airplane go down in a nearby field. Bernadine Clark tried to dispatch an ambulance to transport the victim, but found the crew was at lunch with the keys to the ambulance. She waited until the crew returned, riding with them to the crash site. Clark and the driver loaded the victim into the ambulance, rushing him directly to a medical ward because the admitting room had not yet been set up. This patient, who fully recovered, was assigned the first patient number -- 101.


One of the nurses' many jobs in the 1940s and 1950s was to powder rubber gloves to be used by the surgeons and surgical assistants.
   However, one patient did not a medical program make. Overcrowding at other county hospitals, and a lack of patients at Harbor, spurred the transfer of tuberculosis patients from General Hospital in October, 1946 to isolation wards on Harbor's G-ramp.

   Harbor's first acute care patient was admitted in February, 1947. Suffering from rheumatic heart disease, the patient came to the emergency room for treatment. Although Harbor's acute care service was not fully ready, the staff convinced the medical director to admit the patient and, shortly thereafter, the hospital began routinely admitting acute care patients.


The Transportation Department of the hospital in 1950 was staffed by an ambulance superintendent, Art Boyce (a former race car driver), maintenance men and drivers. There was an ambulance service as well as vehicles called "cars" which were used to transport patients from outlying areas to the various clinics of the county's hospitals.
   Harbor suffered another setback in developing its acute care operations in 1948 when a polio epidemic, lasting nearly two years, paralyzed Los Angeles County. Patients in the acute phase of the disease were admitted to General Hospital, but rehabilitation space was soon strained as the epidemic raged. Although Harbor was not a rehabilitation hospital, Administrator Smits agreed to accept the non-communicable polio patients who began arriving in August, 1948 and were placed in the far end of C-ramp. Caring for these patients was a challenge since Harbor did not have a physical therapy department to provide the services they needed. Smits contacted Sister Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian nurse, who had devised her own course of treatment for polio patients that directly refuted the position of American orthopedists. According to her theory, paralysis resulted when limbs became estranged from the brain; thus, she concentrated on reintroducing the paralyzed parts of the body to the brain. This was accomplished with different physical therapy modalities, including hot packs and manipulation of limbs to maintain mobility. Kenny sent two technicians and five students to Harbor to administer the treatments. By January, 1949, the epidemic had subsided and Harbor was able to transfer most of the patients to Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center for ongoing treatment, returning the wards to acute care service.

The beginning of academic medicine ...

   During the post-war era, in order to maintain standards of patient care, the hospital had to compete with other institutions for resident physicians. Young physicians returning from the war had GI Bill educational benefits, and many postponed private practice to receive additional training in the specialties. After the Veteran's Administration ruled that hospitals could receive payment for training postgraduate physicians, hospitals like Harbor were encouraged to establish residency programs to take advantage of the subsidies.

   Harbor's opportunity came in 1948, when the County Board of Supervisors approved an informal affiliation between the UCLA School of Medicine and Harbor General Hospital. UCLA had received approval from the state to build a medical school in 1946, but lacked a hospital in which the faculty could practice medicine. The affiliation allowed the faculty to use Harbor as a clinical site, and in return, the faculty would provide volunteer professional services and consultations at the hospital. The association enhanced the hospital's image in the national academic realm, allowing for recruitment of medical scholars who would supervise the training of medical students, interns and residents. In 1951, when UCLA admitted its first class of medical students, Harbor General Hospital became the southern campus of the UCLA School of Medicine.




Top: The state-of-the-art clinical laboratory in the 1950's.
Bottom: The outpatient clinic.
(circa 1950s)


Bernadine Clark (fourth from left), director of nurses at the time and the first nurse to be employed at the hospital, is shown meeting with community representatives and hospital staff as they were in the process of establishing one of Harbor's first nurse training programs.
   By 1956, UCLA had completed its own hospital and began withdrawing from its affiliation with Harbor. The reasons for discontinuing the affiliation were strong. The distance to the hospital from UCLA was over 20 miles, and the faculty received no compensation for their professional services. However, the Attending Staff Association (ASA), headed by Dr. Seibert Pearson, recognized the necessity of continuing the affiliation and lobbied the Board of Supervisors to negotiate a formal operating agreement with UCLA. The contract, dated October 17, 1958, assured continued affiliation with UCLA.

   The 1950s were also a time of cultivating affiliations with local schools of nursing -- the first with Harbor College. Bernadine Clark worked closely with the faculty of Harbor College to set up one of the nation's first LVN training programs, with Harbor serving as the clinical facility. This on-the-job program provided a mechanism for recruiting vocational nurses, and an opportunity for nursing attendants to further their education while continuing to work.

Our research roots ...

   Throughout the late 1940s, in hospitals all over the country, association with medical schools fueled research programs. And in 1946, Harbor General was no exception. That year, the first members of the attending staff formed the unincorporated Attending Staff Association (ASA). The ASA later incorporated in 1952, forming a legal entity that provided the necessary framework to establish a comprehensive research program. The ASA established the Research Committee in 1951 to coordinate research studies and provide direction to investigators. In December, 1952, Dr. Roderick McDonald submitted Harbor's first research proposal to the Research Committee. The project, designated P-1, was entitled, "Modified Method for Clinical Spirometry." The committee approved the proposal, and granted Dr. McDonald $3,700 to finance the project.

The campus in the 1950s.


The first auditorium was in E-2 and held 70 chairs.
(circa 1950s)