Fulfilling the Vision of Our Founding Physicians at Richmond Community Hospital

Feb 24 2023

In the early 1900s, Sarah Garland Jones, MD, the first Black woman licensed to practice medicine in the Commonwealth of Virginia, came together with a group of Black physicians to create Richmond’s first Black-owned hospital. At the time, the majority of hospitals were created by and for whites or were segregated. The medical conditions for Black patients were sub-standard to those for white patients and Black physicians were not permitted to treat patients in a hospital.

Therefore, the founding of Richmond Community Hospital represents a milestone in Richmond’s racial history and remains an important milestone for the Black community.

Dr. Jones was not only a pioneer in the medical field, but also champion for civil rights and a role model for future generations. She was ahead of her time and opened her own clinic in Jackson Ward in 1895. There, she served both Black and white patients and was not only dedicated to her community, but also to her work and her profession as well.

Richmond Community Hospital opened its doors in Jackson Ward in 1907. In addition to being a designated hospital where Black doctors could treat Black patients, it also became a teaching hospital for Black nurses when at the time the options were few to none.

The hospital was moved onto Overbrook Road behind Virginia Union University in the 1930s, and again moved in 1980, with the help of 21 Black physicians who used their own personal capital to relocate the hospital to its current location at North 28th Street. Together, Walton Belle, Lillie Bennett, Elwood Boone, Lewis Boone, Theodore R. Coots Brown, James Campbell, Wesley Carter, Harry Crawford, Halstead Howell, John Howlette, Reginald Jackson, Bernice Grant Latham, Wiley J. Latham III, Frank Royal, Harry Royal, Lindley Smith, Valvin Sutton, Charles Sutton, William Thornton, Joyce Whitaker and Everett White inspired generations of young Black men and women to pursue careers in health care while providing quality care for their community.

By re-establishing Richmond Community Hospital in the East End, these physicians ensured the members of their community had a designated hospital to go to where they knew they would be treated with dignity and respect. When the hospital was acquired by Bon Secours in 1995 to ensure the facility’s survival as an anchor institution in the East End, the belief in the mission was much the same – to deliver quality, compassionate care to the community and more importantly to those in need, regardless of race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, sexual orientation or the ability to pay.

That’s a pledge that remains today: to care for every patient who comes through our doors.

Since Richmond Community Hospital joined the Bon Secours ministry, we have continued the ongoing Mission of providing good help to those in need in the East End:

  • In 1995, shortly after the acquisition, Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital expanded with the opening of an emergency department, providing immediate access to services in the East End. Investments in the East End have continued both in hospital additions and community contributions directly impacting social determinants of health and local small business growth.
  • Through community benefit investment grants, Bon Secours contributes financially to key nonprofit organizations in the East End whose mission is directly related to improving the social drivers of health.
  • Additionally, Bon Secours has contributed to the development and growth of more than 40 small businesses through the Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) grant program.
  • In 2017, the campus grew yet again with the addition of the Sarah Garland Jones Center for Healthy Living, focusing on providing community health outward and beyond the walls of the hospital.
  • Our campus continues to grow today, with the most recent addition of the East End Medical Office Building, which supports local health care needs by providing a walk-in wellness clinic and a behavioral health partial hospitalization program.

As health and wellness needs grow and evolve in the East End, as will Richmond Community Hospital and its campus. At Bon Secours, we take pride in continuously evaluating service needs and making decisions to meet the demand in the community.

While we are excited about the direction we are heading, it’s also important to reflect on where we’ve been.

In honor of Black History Month, we are bringing forward just a couple of the voices of those whose work at Richmond Community Hospital has spanned many years. Here are some of their perspectives and what Richmond Community Hospital means to them.

Denise Davis, radiology secretary

Denise Davis has served in the radiology department at Richmond Community Hospital since 1985 and has a real passion for her work. Remarkably, she has never once called out of a shift. Growing up in the East End, she has seen many changes not only in the hospital, but the community as well – especially the rise of technology.

“I’ve worked at the hospital since we used to develop X-ray films in a darkroom,” she shares. “I love my job. You never know what a patient may be going through so it’s important to be that smiling face they encounter each day.”

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise staffed COVID-19 screening tables.

“I couldn’t stay at home,” she adds. “I’m a people person.”

Loretta Hayes Richardson, RN, emergency department

Loretta was inspired to pursue a career as a nurse after witnessing a family member having a stroke right in front of her. She felt helpless and never wanted to experience the helplessness she felt again.

Loretta has served at a variety of different hospitals, but there’s nothing quite like Richmond Community Hospital to her.

“I love the atmosphere here, and I love the people and the patients. I’m all about servant leadership and here, I feel like I have an opportunity to teach patients about diseases and medication and not just provide care one day and send them home. It’s not about me, but what I can do for someone else. I feel like I am making a difference in this community.”

In looking ahead at what’s next for Richmond Community Hospital, our ministry has introduced a new initiative: Community Today, Community Tomorrow. It’s a comprehensive health and wellness plan to benefit the East End community which will be executed through 2025. We partnered with many local stakeholders to identify and understand the community’s key health needs and develop this actionable plan that we are confident will improve the health status of the community. We hope you’ll visit our dedicated website as we track our progress on this plan in real time.

Read more Black History Month stories about our team members.

Also, learn about the health care services we provide at Bon Secours.

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