Over 85 Years of Comprehensive Care: A Brief History of the Western Montana Clinic
1922: Western Montana Clinic has humble beginnings as five doctors merge their talents in an office near Higgins and Main.
The Western Montana Clinic officially came into existence on December 3, 1922, with the consolidation of two small physician groups, largely through the leadership of Dr. Harry C. Smith. Dr. Smith, described as a soft-spoken Missoulian with a dry sense of humor, had honed his above-average surgical skills as an Army surgeon in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. After visiting the Mayo Clinic, he was impressed with the potential advantages of group practice.
The four other founders were P. T. McCarthy, a graduate of Rush Medical College in Chicago, an able young surgeon who had graduate training at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston; J.F.S. Marshall, who practiced obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics; John T. Holmes, who favored general medicine and managed the laboratory and x-ray department; and W. J. Marshall, practicing ear, nose, and throat specialist. They established the first offices of the Western Montana Clinic on the second floor of the Higgins Building, just north of the present First Federal Savings and Loan at the northeast corner of Higgins and Main Streets.
1941: The Clinic moves into its own building across Broadway from St. Patrick Hospital.
The Clinic’s reputation spread as more and more patients appeared, often traveling distances of over 100 miles in a time of narrow, often unpaved roads, for an appointment. Other well-trained specialists were recruited to staff the various departments. Dr. L. F. Honeycutt, a surgeon with a liking for orthopedics, arrived in 1936. After a good deal of heated discussion centering on the question of whether obstetricians could take care of all the medical needs of children, Dr. Lee Alderson joined the Clinic as a specialist in pediatrics later in 1936. Another surgeon, Dr. C. H. Fredrickson, with training in urology, arrived in 1937. Dr. S. W. Freston, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, followed in 1940 and H. L. Blegen in 1941. All had their post-graduate training at the Mayo Clinic and found the transition to the Clinic eased by the Clinic’s use of Mayo Clinic charts and examining tables.
1967: The Clinic expands once again into a new building to accommodate more health services for the community.
Over the years, the Clinic expanded its services significantly. The Clinic brought the first radiologist to Missoula in 1947, did the first renal dialysis and developed the first Coronary Care Unit in the State of Montana, provided the initial teachers for Coronary Care nurses and physicians, initiated the first left heart catheterization laboratory and the first open heart surgery. In all areas of medicine, the Clinic has spearheaded numerous important leaps in patient care.
The advancements made by the Clinic members have led to excellence in patient care. The Clinic continues to provide medical leadership to meet the goals of providing the best medical care for our patients.
We look forward to our future together!