St. Bernardine celebrates 90th anniversary

Dignity Health – St. Bernardine Medical Center is celebrating a tradition of compassion that spans generations.

In the 1920s, San Bernardino experienced a rapid population growth of 18,700 residents in 1920 that grew to nearly 40,000 by 1930. Concerned about the lack of hospital facilities for this booming population, a local surgeon, Dr. Philip Savage Sr. (1880-1955) shared his dream of building a faith-based hospital with Father Patrick Dunn, pastor of St. Bernardine Catholic Church, and Mother Mary Placidus Mulcahy, superior general of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Houston, Texas.

Guided by the mission of the Founding Sisters of Charity to advocate for those who are poor and vulnerable, they established a formal trust agreement with members of the non-medical community. The group’s fundraising efforts led to the purchase of a vacant lot near the corner of Waterman and Highland avenue, which was a dirt road flanked by farms and fields.

California Governor James J. Rolph laid the cornerstone of the new St. Bernardine Medical Center and convent, aptly named for Bernardo Albizzeschi, a priest born in Siena, Italy, in 1380 and canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as “Saint Bernardine.” The 125-bed hospital officially opened its doors on October 10, 1931 with Dr. Savage as the first chief of staff. The first patient, Mrs. Louise Landry, honored her daughter’s birthplace by naming her Bernardine Landry who was delivered by Dr. Eugene H. Hull and baptized in the convent chapel by Father Dunn.

During the past nine decades, the hospital has grown to serve the specific needs of our community by adding a $3 million South Wing in 1960, a $14 million nursing tower in 1970, and in 2002, a $6.1 million Critical Care Unit. During these expansions, St. Bernadine Medical Center remained true to its mission to heal the mind, body and spirit of the individuals it serves–both in the hospital and in the community.

“I am proud of the St. Bernardine team of staff, physicians, and volunteers who have carried out the mission of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word for the past 90 years,” says Doug Kleam, President, St. Bernadine Medical Center. “Every day I witness their amazing dedication to our patients and the community.”

Today, St. Bernardine Medical Center is a 342-bed nonprofit acute care hospital that has been nationally recognized for excellent care in treatments for stroke, heart, neurosurgery, orthopedics, maternity care, and weight loss surgery. Supported by the CommonSpirit Health family, Dignity Health – St. Bernardine Medical Center, continues realizing the dream of Dr. Savage, the Founding Sisters of Charity, and our committed community leaders of providing high-quality care that is delivered with humankindess to our most vulnerable populations across the Inland Empire.


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