Every child dreams of being in the driver’s seat. But not all children travel the same road. For children faced with physical challenges, fulfilling the promise of a brighter tomorrow can be a long and bumpy ride. The specialists at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport are determined to put children in the driver’s seat and set them on the road to independence.
Since 1922, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport’s surgeons and staff have been providing high-quality medical care to all children, regardless of the families' ability to pay. Our hospital and clinic specialize in treating children with orthopaedic conditions and cleft lip and palate in an environment designed to put children at ease. Every member of our team, from surgeons and therapists to nurses and prosthetists, work together to ensure the best course of treatment for each patient.
The staff at the Shreveport Shriners Hospital proudly serve children from Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and the Republic of Panama.
As the first hospital established in the Shriners Hospitals for Children system, the Shreveport Shriners Hospital serves as the landmark hospital of a system that has helped transform the delivery of health care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burn injuries, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.
Each day inside Shriners Hospitals for Children, patients and families say thank you to the Shriners International fraternity – those men in the red fezzes. Our model for care was imagined and established by Shriners International, the fraternal organization for which the hospital is named. Determined to give all children access to specialized care, Shriners International opened their first hospital right here in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1922. Polio was reaching epidemic proportions and only families of means had ready access to doctors, leaving thousands of children at risk without health care. Shriners Hospitals for Children opened as a place where children suffering from the crippling effects of polio, clubfoot and other orthopaedic conditions could receive life-changing medical care.
Recognized as one of the world’s greatest philanthropies, Shriners Hospitals for Children has evolved into an international hospital system recognized for its devotion to transforming the lives of children through expert care and research. It is a destination of choice for parents whose children have orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, cleft lip and palate, and other complex surgical needs. All children receive care regardless of the families' ability to pay.
When members of the Shriners fraternity officially made the momentous decision to establish a hospital to care for children with orthopaedic difficulties in 1920, perhaps few envisioned a location as little known as Shreveport to serve as home to the pivotal endeavor. While a well-established port and agricultural town at the time, Shreveport remained little known on a national level. Even the local Shriner membership was relatively new, with the fledgling El Karubah Shriners receiving charter in 1914.
By the 1921 Imperial Session (national meeting) of the Shriners fraternity, plans for the hospital evolved into talk of a system of hospitals dedicated to the care of children, with the first hospital to be located in St. Louis, Missouri. Already a well-established city, St. Louis also had the benefit of a medical teaching center in Washington University. However, by mid-1921, plans to acquire all necessary plots of land near the university had stalled.
Upon learning of the plans for a system of hospitals, El Karubah Potentate James Horace Rowland set out to make a case for Shreveport as a potential location. A well-known Shreveport businessman and civic leader, Rowland began an aggressive campaign to bring a hospital to Shreveport. Rowland promptly began raising funds and secured the land at Kings Highway and Samford Avenue in Shreveport – the outskirts of town at the time. He then enlisted the help of the Shreveport Medical Society in funding for a qualified orthopaedic surgeon for the first year of operation.
Joined by Shreveport Mayor L.E. Thomas and other El Karubah founding fathers, Rowland traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to present his proposal to the Shriners committee overseeing the hospital initiative. Making his case, Rowland laid out not only the strong local support and plans already underway, but also the potential for the Shreveport area to benefit greatly from oil and natural gas development over the years. Chaired by Sam Cochran of Dallas, Texas, the committee was impressed with the level of preparation by the Shreveport delegation. In September of 1921, Rowland and the El Karubah Shriners were given the approval to proceed.
In September of 1921, leaders of the Shriners fraternity made the historic announcement that the world’s first Shriners Hospital would be located in Shreveport, Louisiana. Led by El Karubah Potentate James Rowland, the Shreveport delegation had recently laid out a bold proposal to bring the first hospital to Shreveport. While reporting back to his constituents following the announcement, however, Rowland recalled significant competition among the potential host cities.
"While we had all hoped that Shreveport would be selected as the location..., there was tremendous pressure brought to bear by other cities and there appeared to be little assurance that the town had a chance," Rowland recalled in a 1921 newspaper interview. "I feel that the work done by El Karubah’s representatives... was mainly instrumental in the adoption of the hospital plan as a whole."
With the path cleared for establishing a hospital in Shreveport, area Shriners turned their attention towards planning the new facility. The Shriners called upon Edward Frank Neild, a prominent local architect and founding father of the El Karubah Shriners, to lead the design effort. Neild, who had previously lent his designs to elaborate local landmarks, including the Scottish Rite cathedral, B’nai Zion Temple and Caddo Parish Courthouse, applied his skills toward an ornate design, drawing inspiration from the Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta. Neild would go on to lead a prolific career, including being tapped by President (and Shriner) Harry S. Truman to provide consulting for renovations to the White House beginning in the late 1940s.
Plans for the first Shriners Hospital called for a 60-bed facility, to be separated into 30-bed boys' and girls' wards. The 5.9-acre plot of land at the corner of Kings Highway and Samford Avenue, secured by the El Karubah Shriners, would later be purchased by the Shriners at a cost of $35,000 and donated to the hospital. Total cost estimates for construction and equipping of the facility, including removal of an existing structure on the property, was placed at just over $300,000.
In May of 1922, the cornerstone for the world’s first Shriners Hospital was placed among throngs of Shriners, friends and well-wishers. Officiated by Imperial Potentate Earnest Cutts, the ceremony ensured Shreveport’s legacy as the first Shriners Hospital, and physically signaled the start of an ambitious and unprecedented effort to provide essential care to children in need.
Following groundbreaking ceremonies for the first Shriners Hospital in May of 1922, construction crews set forth transforming farmland at the outskirts of Shreveport into a haven for children in need of orthopaedic care. Over the course of eleven months, the designs of Edward Neild took shape in the form of a stately structure, with subtle design elements nodding in homage to the Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
As construction of the Shreveport facility progressed throughout the summer of 1922, plans were also under development to immediately begin addressing the medical needs of children throughout the region. With the hospital still in its early phases of construction, Dr. Guy Caldwell began scheduling children for care from his medical office located in downtown Shreveport. Making good on its earlier promise, the Shreveport Medical Society arranged Dr. Caldwell’s services for the first year of the hospital’s operations as a condition of the hospital coming to Shreveport.
The first patient in the Shriners Hospitals for Children system was seen in Dr. Caldwell's downtown office operating as Shriners Hospitals on September 16, 1922. The patient was a 7-year-old girl from the Coushatta, Louisiana, area southeast of Shreveport, who was treated for clubfoot. From her first visit to the Shriners Hospital, the little girl developed a special relationship with the facility and returned on numerous occasions throughout her lifetime in support of the hospital.
In the months that followed, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport initiated in earnest its mission of providing expert orthopaedic care to children in need. By the dedication of the completed new facility on April 6, 1923, the hospital had already well established itself in the hearts of the Shreveport community.
"The Shriners Hospital...is truthfully known as this city’s greatest blessing...," stated an editorial published in the Shreveport Times coinciding with the dedication. "...for there could be no nobler work than the (helping) of little innocents who have no way of helping themselves."
Following the pomp and ceremony of dedicating their beloved and sought after new hospital, Louisiana Shriners directed their focus toward meeting the needs of a challenging and diverse patient population. While primarily focusing on the devastating effects of polio on children, the first Shriners Hospital offered services for children with congenital (present at birth) orthopaedic conditions, as well as care for orthopaedic injuries such as those suffered through work on the region’s multitudes of farms.
In the first years of the hospital's operation, patients were required to satisfy three requirements as a condition of their treatment: Be between the ages of 0 and 14, be indigent or otherwise unable to pay for services, and have a condition that was treated by the medical staff of the facility. The preconditions were ultimately revised to include care for all children aged 0 to 18 who could benefit from the services provided.
James Rowland, whose efforts were largely credited with bringing the first Shriners Hospitals for Children to Shreveport, was named the first chairman of the hospital’s Board of Governors. In keeping with his intimate involvement with the hospital to this date, Rowland played a highly visible role in directing the hospital’s efforts. In his 20 years as chairman, Rowland remained a fixture and paternal presence within the facility, earning the affectionate nickname "Daddy Rowland" among the hospital’s children.
In its first year, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport provided care to some 480 children in need of assistance. Within five years, that number had promptly expanded into the thousands, with families traveling hundreds of miles via train, car, and even horse to give their children a chance at improving their lives via this labor of love from the Shriners.
Over 90 years ago, Louisiana Shriners embraced the grand vision of leaders within the Shriners fraternity and made it their own, orchestrating a bold plan to bring life-changing orthopaedic care to children throughout the South. That local vision for Shreveport, enacted only through the contributions of dedicated Shriners, experienced medical professionals, nurses and staff, and the enduring support of the Shreveport community, continues to this day at that venerable plot of land at the corner of Kings Highway and Samford Avenue in Shreveport.
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport, like the other U.S. based hospitals in the Shriners Hospitals for Children health care system, reaffirms its commitment to excellence of care through the development of its Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). The CHNA is a requirement for tax-exempt hospitals to engage their servicing community every three years and assess their health needs. Based on the findings, we have developed an action plan to work alongside community stakeholders to address the health needs of the community.