Baptist Health

Baptist Health, Arkansas’s largest healthcare system, has hospital campuses in communities around Arkansas, including Little Rock (Pulaski County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkadelphia (Clark County)Stuttgart (Arkansas County), Conway (Faulkner County), Heber Springs (Cleburne County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and Van Buren (Crawford County). In addition to its medical centers, it also operates therapy centers, physician clinics, a retirement village, and a school of nursing and allied health.

Baptist Health began in 1919 when the Arkansas Baptist State Convention voted to create a modern scientific hospital in Little Rock. The Baptist State Hospital opened with seventy-five beds in November 1920. In its first year of operation, the hospital treated 1,026 patients. Dr. J. S. Rogers was appointed superintendent of the hospital. The Baptist Health School of Nursing also began in 1920 and graduated its first class in 1921.

In 1921, construction began on a 300-bed, five-story brick building, which was formally opened on January 1, 1925. In December 1945, Baptist established the first eye bank in Arkansas and initiated a cornea transplant program. In October 1946, John Gilbreath was named administrator, and one of his first major accomplishments was the establishment of a hospital and medical insurance program. The year ended with the name of the hospital changing from Baptist State Hospital to Arkansas Baptist Hospital.

In 1954, Baptist became the first hospital in Little Rock to employ African-American doctors. In 1955, Arkansas Baptist Hospital became the first hospital in the state to initiate a hostess program, which provided a full-time hostess to assist patients and their families. On April 12, 1961, the world’s first open-heart surgery in a private hospital was performed at Baptist. Later that year, a new heart catheterization lab was established, and the first intensive care unit (ICU) in Arkansas was opened.

On January 28, 1962, the hospital opened Memorial Hospital, a 118-bed facility, in North Little Rock. In 1965, Arkansas Baptist Hospital’s name was changed to Arkansas Baptist Medical Center. The following year, trustees recommended that the hospital be transferred to a private, not-for-profit corporation, the membership of which was to come from among members of Arkansas Baptist State Convention churches, so that the hospital might receive federal funds without violating the convention’s principle of separation of church and state. Late in 1968, the Arkansas Baptist Medical Center System was formed, and in September 1969, the word “Arkansas” was dropped from the name of the flagship hospital of the new system, which became Baptist Medical Center.

In July 1970, the system acquired a 213-acre tract of land now in western Little Rock for expansion, and groundbreaking ceremonies were held there in June 1971 for a new 534-bed facility that is now Baptist Medical Center, while the downtown facility’s name was changed to Central Baptist Hospital. The January 12, 1974, grand opening ceremonies for the new center included a dedication speech by then U.S. vice president Gerald Ford.

In 1981, Baptist Medical Center System expanded its outreach when it entered into a lease agreement to operate Twin Rivers Medical Center and Clark County Nursing Home in Arkadelphia. On July 8, 1982, the board of trustees incorporated Parkway Village to provide continuing care for senior citizens. The first residents moved into Parkway Village on May 5, 1985. On January 1, 1983, Baptist Medical System moved all acute-care services from Central Baptist Hospital to Baptist Medical Center, using the older hospital building for several years as a rehabilitation center. In 1995, the system shortened its name to Baptist Health.

On November 1, 1996, Baptist Health added its fifth hospital to the system, Baptist Health Medical Center–Heber Springs. Eventually, a new hospital was constructed due to the growth of the community at a new location on the Highway 25 bypass and was dedicated on June 19, 2007. In November 1999, Baptist Health Memorial Medical Center moved into its new facility located at 3333 Springhill Drive in North Little Rock, with the official dedication ceremony on October 24, 1999, and in June 2000, it changed its name to Baptist Health Medical Center–North Little Rock.

In 2008, Baptist Health Extended Care Hospital, located on the tenth floor of Baptist Health Medical Center–Little Rock, became the system’s sixth hospital. Also in 2008, Stuttgart Regional Medical Center was acquired and renamed the Baptist Health Medical Center–Stuttgart in January 2009, becoming the system’s seventh hospital. In 2008, Baptist Health bought the recently closed Southwest Regional Medical Center in Little Rock; renamed Baptist Health Southwest Campus–Little Rock, the facility offers therapy and other services.

The Baptist Health system offers healthcare services at more than 130 access points throughout the state. In November 2013, Baptist Health announced a partnership with Hot Spring County Medical Center in Malvern (Hot Spring County), as well as the construction of a 100-bed hospital in Conway, which opened in 2016. In 2014, the Little Rock campus was named after Russell D. Harrington Jr., who had served as president and CEO.

In 2015, the Baptist Health School of Nursing became Baptist Health College Little Rock, which grants associate degrees in nursing. Three years later, the system acquired the former Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith (Sebastian County).

For additional information:
Baptist Health. (accessed April 6, 2022).

“Baptist Hospital Opened Formally,” Arkansas Gazette, January 2, 1925, p. 7.

“First Baptist Unit Required 5 Years to Finance in ’20.” Arkansas Gazette, January 13, 1974, p. 4A.

Sawyer, Nathania. Baptist Health: 100 Years of All Our Best. Little Rock: Baptist Health, 2020.

Staff of Baptist Health


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