Community Gallery

Henry Ford Health System

The Detroit Historical Museum’s Community Gallery is a changing exhibition space made available to local historical societies, museums, non-profit organizations and educational institutions. Selected for their contributions to the metro Detroit community, the organizations featured here share their stories and provide new perspectives on the issues, ideas and individuals that have shaped our region’s rich history. 

Developed and produced solely by our featured organizations, the words, images and ideas represented in the exhibition do not reflect the ideas, views or opinions of the Detroit Historical Society.

Now Open in the Community Gallery 

Henry Ford Health System: 100 Years Measured in Life

Less than two years ago, Henry Ford Hospital was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

It took nearly a century to get there.

Now a special exhibit, “Henry Ford Health System: 100 Years Measured in Life,” has opened at the Detroit Historical Museum, chronicling the birth and development of one of Detroit’s best-known and one of the nation’s most-respected healthcare institutions.

The exhibit, on display in the museum’s Community Gallery through Jan. 3, 2016, begins in 1915 with auto pioneer Henry Ford taking control of the stalled 48-bed Detroit General Hospital project (today’s Henry Ford Hospital), and tracks the health system’s century of growth with 100 stories of transforming health and life through medical innovation and unwavering dedication to quality and community.

“After 100 years, Henry Ford Hospital and Henry Ford Health System remain as committed to the community – and the City of Detroit - as from the start,” says Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System.

“Our exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum offers an incredible view of this venerable institution’s driving, sustaining force in clinical care, research, medical education and innovation.”

Today’s Henry Ford Health System, still anchored by Henry Ford Hospital at its original location on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, serves a five-county area admitting 89,000 patients a year to hospitals with more than 3.2 million clinic visits.

The museum exhibit features10 categories, beginning with an introduction that states:

“Throughout the years, as Detroit’s popularity rose and fell through world wars, unrest and financial crises, Henry Ford Hospital stood strong,” says John Popovich Jr., M.D., President and CEO of Henry Ford Hospital.

“The team of doctors, nurses, scientists, and all the health care employees made sure the care of the patients always came first.”

The exhibits other nine categories include:

  • Founding of Henry Ford Hospital. Showcases the Ford family’s lasting legacy; the first patients; a culture of camaraderie.
  • Education & Research. From the Henry Ford Innovation Institute to the Ford Foundation’s $100 million grant.
  • Henry Ford Medical Group. Highlights the physician practice’s national influence on health care; teamwork to develop specialty and multidisciplinary care; formation of the group practice model.
  • Nursing. The opening in 1925 of the Henry Ford School of Nursing
  • Creating the Henry Ford Health System. Tracking the growth of the System and its commitment to the community through its hospitals in Wyandotte, West Bloomfield and Macomb, and Health Alliance Plan.
  • Embracing Diversity. A look at the first female physicians and scientists; research that put Henry Ford at forefront of AIDS treatment; and focus on healthcare disparities and healthcare equity.
  • Our People, Our Communities. Focused on care and education in the community through the Cabrini Clinic, Henry Ford Early College and CHASS.
  • Innovations in Medical Care. Features the innovative work of the Center for Structured Heart Disease, and the work to find new treatments for neurological diseases.
  • Innovations in Health Care Delivery. Work to design a hospital for the 21st century; and save lives through emergency care.

Some noteworthy notes on Detroit’s new centenarian:

  • Auto pioneer Henry Ford never intended to open a hospital, merely to invest in one. But when construction of the facility came to a standstill soon after groundbreaking, a disgusted Ford bought out all his fellow investors and finished the job himself, with wife Clara. Their descendants have been active supporters of the hospital ever since.
  • Clara Ford not only contributed personal wealth and talent to the support of the fledgling Henry Ford Hospital, she went on to push for the creation of its first psychiatric unit, the Henry Ford School of Nursing and Hygiene, and the Clara Ford Nurses Home.
  • Henry Ford Hospital was the first in the country to use purified heparin to treat blood clots, and one of only a few U.S. hospitals chosen as a national test location for penicillin. Among its other innovations: it developed the first liquid oxygen tent, was the first to use the multiple-lead electrocardiogram and was one of the first in Michigan and one of the first globally to perform a graft to correct an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and set up the state’s first blood vessel bank.
  • Michigan’s first successful open heart surgery using the heart-lung bypass machine was performed at Henry Ford Hospital.
  • Henry Ford purchased Health Alliance Plan, the state’s first non-profit, prepaid group practice health plan.
  • As Michigan’s sixth largest employer, Henry Ford Health System is one of the region’s economic engines, with 23,000 employees and direct and indirect economic impact totaling nearly $6 billion annually.
  • Henry Ford Health System is one of DiversityInc.’s Top Ten Hospital Systems, and recognized as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization.
  • Henry Ford Health System is a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, one of the most prestigious national honors for performance excellence.

 Henry Ford Hospital


Supported  by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.