A brief history of the University of Louisville Hospital

UofL Hospital is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region. Photo by University of Louisville Images

The UofL Hospital has been a presence in the Louisville area for nearly 200 years. Most of us who traverse downtown each day pass it regularly along Jackson Street. 

There’s nothing particularly eye-catching about the tannish building, but its origins date back to 1837 where it originated as UofL’s School of Medicine at 8th + Chestnut streets. Did you know UofL’s School of Medicine is the 9th oldest medical school in the US?

The current facility at 530 S. Jackson St. was built in 1979, employs 500+ physicians, and has 404 beds — making it the fifth largest hospital in the 502. 

Today, the hospital is part of UofL Health, an academic health system that also includes Jewish Hospital, Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, Peace Hospital, Frazier Rehabilitation Institute + Shelbyville Hospital. 

It’s also the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region, meaning it can provide total care for every aspect of injury — from prevention through rehabilitation.

With a beginning that goes back to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive list of accolades, discoveries, and firsts in just one LOUtoday newsletter, so we’re highlighting a few to write home about

A brief history 

  • The original institute — then called Louisville City Hospital — at 8th and Chestnut streets was a Greek Revival structure designed by Kentucky architect Gideon Shryrock.
  • The founding faculty included distinguished professors from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. 

Some firsts

  • UofL Hospital housed the world’s first emergency room. It opened in 1911 — which is easy to remember considering it includes “911.” 
  • In 1999, surgeons from UofL’s School of Medicine helped perform the world’s first successful hand transplant alongside Kleinert Kutz at Jewish Hospital. 
  • UofL + Jewish Hospital physicians achieved the first implantation of the first fully self-contained artificial heart in 2001. 
  • Surgeons at UofL Hospital were the first in Kentucky to use the da Vinci® Robotic Surgery to treat patients with colorectal and head and neck conditions.

Notable discoveries 

  • In the 1930s, surgeon Arnold Griswold developed autotransfusion, the process of receiving your own blood in a transfusion versus a donor’s. 
  • The James Graham Brown Cancer Center discovered the first atomic-level study of lung cancer metabolism in human patients.
  • UofL researchers found embryonic-like stem cells in adult human bone marrow. 
  • Brown Cancer Center scientists have developed three novel cancer treatments that are in early phase trials.

Recognition

  • In 2013, the hospital was named the first Joint commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in Kentucky making it the 20th in the nation.