'Borden's Dream' leads to Walter Reed innovation century ago
May 1, 2009
<i>Editor's note: Walter Reed Army Medical Center opened May 1, 1909 and hospital historian Sherman Fleek here outlines the operational environment which led to establishing the innovative "teaching hospital." </i>
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 1, 2009) -- As the 20th century dawned, the medical community, especially in the United States, was in the midst of a dynamic revolution of research and professional education.
The concept of combining medical treatment, research, and education together was a new and exciting concept often termed as "teaching hospitals" at that time.
Though other medical institutions may have pioneered the teaching hospital concept, the Army developed a more advanced vision of medical treatment, education and research by the early 1900s with the "medical center" concept.
One medical officer who clamored for a new idea of reform and medical advancement was Maj. William C. Borden (1858-1934), who later became a lieutenant colonel. In 1904, Borden, the hospital commander at Washington Barracks (later Fort Leslie J. McNair), envisioned a concept, now called "Borden's Dream" that was the framework for the future Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Borden's vision combined separate medical institutions together at one location and under the authority of one Army medical officer. These institutions conceived by Borden comprised four parts: the Army Medical Museum (established in 1862), the Army Medical School (1893), a general hospital, and lastly, the Army surgeon general's medical library - all located together and part of one institution. All of these components eventually did in fact come to Walter Reed (except the surgeon general's library).
Borden took his proposal to Congress in 1905 to lobby and gain financial support. One of the congressmen labeled his vision a "dream," which was not a positive remark. The title "Borden's Dream" stuck and is now part of the legacy of Walter Reed.
Borden and Maj. Walter Reed were both on the faculty of the Army Medical School just after the turn of the centerury. Reed died Nov. 23, 1902, at age 51, of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix at the Army General Hospital at Washington Barracks (now Fort McNair).
Borden dedicated himself to honoring his friend, working for several years to get funding for a new hospital to replace the aging Washington Barracks, and he named the new hospital after Reed.