This week I’ve been doing a bit of research and reading about the history of Adventist HealthCare here in the mid-Atlantic. It is interesting, instructive, and even fun to brush up on those events from long ago that have made us the organization we are today. One of the most interesting stories in our history comes from the very beginning—the story of Drs. Daniel and Lauretta Kress. Both physicians, the Kresses came to the Washington, D.C. area in 1907 to work in the newly established “Washington Sanitarium.” Daniel Kress was the medical director, and Lauretta was a staff physician who soon established office hours to see women patients.
After nearly a decade of work, Dr. Lauretta Kress became the founding physician for what was called the “Kress Maternity Ward and Children’s Hospital,” an independent unit in “the San” that was essentially a hospital within the hospital. It was the first facility dedicated to women’s health in Montgomery County.
This week I saw a picture from a very special event that took place in July of 1943. It was the 50th wedding anniversary for the Kresses, and to celebrate they invited all the families of all the babies Dr. Lauretta had delivered to a big celebratory party. Over 600 people showed up! And that was just a small percentage of the more than 2,000 babies that she helped to bring into the world.
The photograph is amazing. Everyone is seated together on a grassy hillside near the old San—hundreds of children and young adults. No doubt there were some who had been delivered by Dr. Lauretta and whose children were also delivered by her. Looking at the photo, I wondered how many of those pictured were staff at the San—individuals who started their life there and had now become part of the community bringing care to their community. I wondered how many of those children are still with us—and how many of those families still depend on our hospital for healthcare. I wondered how long it took to get all those people to sit down and look at the camera!
The photo is a touching tribute to the Kresses and recognizes the commitment they made to our community. And it’s still an inspiration to us today—even though I can’t imagine trying to take that picture. What I can imagine is the communities that are created by all the families served by one of our physicians, or in one department, or over the course of a single year.
It is a great privilege for our hospitals to share in the lives of so many people. The honor to be with a family at the birth of a child and to share in those moments of joy is truly wonderful. No less an honor is given us when we are part of the care of a person or family at any stage of life, even those that are most difficult. Those pictures could be created as well—the individuals who come together to care for and support someone who is facing a crisis or serious illness. While they may not exist as single photographs, they can nonetheless be visualized in our minds: the ad hoc communities that come together for the specific purpose of supporting a single individual on their life journey. These communities come together for affirmation and strength. And, even without a photo, they are a real part of the healing process.
Our history is being written each day by the modern Daniels and Laurettas. A century after the Kresses first came to Washington, we are still inspired to fulfill a common mission and to demonstrate God’s care in all that we do.