Indian Path Medical Center celebrates 40 years of serving the community


KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Indian Path Medical Center (IPMC) is celebrating 40 years of service to the community, having treated its first patients on March 1, 1974.

Over those four decades the hospital has become an integral part of Kingsport and the surrounding area, helping to heal thousands of people and save countless lives. While IPMC has continued to expand and enhance its services, equipment and facilities, it hasn’t outgrown its roots as a community hospital with a patient-friendly atmosphere.

“I think the size of the hospital, the location of the hospital and the quality of the folks who work here are the three real keys to Indian Path’s staying power in the community,” said hospital CEO and vice president Monty McLaurin. “This hospital has a very loyal following, and this is a tribute to our team members. And people tell me that the culture – of patient-centered care and that feeling of family – was really there from the beginning.

“The biggest assets we have are our team members and physicians. They are the face of Indian Path, and the reason for the success of Indian Path.

To celebrate the anniversary, the hospital has put together a week of activities, including a Kingsport Chamber of Commerce breakfast; “A Closer Look” segment on WKPT-TV 19; a 40th Anniversary Commemorative Video; a ribbon-cutting and proclamation ceremony followed by a Founding Physician/40-Year Team Member Luncheon on Tuesday, March 4; and an IPMC Team Member 40th Anniversary Celebration on March 5.

As you’d imagine, the hospital has seen dramatic changes as health care and technology have evolved, but the team members at IPMC are proud of their commitment to providing great patient-centered care.

“At IPMC, we have always kept the patient at the center of all we do,” said Susan Fannon, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, “and team members in every department throughout our hospital are committed to providing excellent care. Our culture is one of caring not just about the patient, but about each other. That’s what makes us unique!”

McLaurin said finding the right identity has been a key to the hospital’s success, as well: Not too big, not too small.

“Early on, Indian Path defined itself as a community hospital,” he said. “A clear decision was made that the hospital was not going to offer a large amount of complex, high-end services, but the emphasis would be to provide very solid medical and surgical capabilities. We’d rather do a few things very, very well than try do everything.”

IPMC was called Indian Path Hospital when it opened its doors in 1974, with the first two patients being treated on March 1.  It began as part of Hospital Corporation of American (HCA) – which in 1994 joined with Columbia to form Columbia/HCA – before becoming part of Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) in 1998.

A huge crowd was on hand for the hospital’s grand opening on Feb. 24, 1974. They braved rain and the nation’s gas crisis to see the ceremony and enjoy a tour of the facility. When it opened, Indian Path offered some of the best technology and finest treatment available at the time.

According to a story in the very first edition of the hospital’s “Pathfinder” newsletter (then called simply “The Bulletin”): “Patients’ rooms are equipped with electrically-controlled beds, color televisions, radios, individual baths, piped-in oxygen, nurse-call set-ups, and individual thermostats for room temperature controls. Hallways and rooms (excepting isolation rooms) are carpeted to keep noise to a minimum. The medical staff is made up of some 50 area physicians who, for the most part, are on the staffs of other local hospitals.”

Richard Welch was the hospital’s first administrator. In a letter to employees shortly after the opening, he thanked them for making opening day a success as well as “for the tremendous performance you have shown in the initial weeks of ‘giving birth’ to a new hospital.”

Times were very different. Patients, visitors and even hospital staff could smoke in the facility. According to IPMC’s Kim Barnes, RN, technology included “pen, paper, manual (or if you were lucky, electric) typewriter, beepers and call light system at the nurses’ station. Vital signs were taken the old-fashioned way. You always needed a watch with a minute hand.”

There are eight employees and several physicians who have been at Indian Path since the beginning. IPMC original team members include: Judy Powers, Betty Bell, Barbara Knight, Wanda Britt, Marie Lingerfelt, Jane Jones, Tommy Davis and Glen Lewis.

Three of them – Lingerfelt, Davis and Jones – still work in the IPMC Laboratory, a department they helped start basically from the ground up.

“We all pulled together,” Jones said, “each with our own area of expertise, to make the lab what it was on opening day – ready for lab testing to serve our patients.”

Change continues at IPMC, and one of the biggest boosts was joining MSHA. Since then, Indian Path has enhanced and expanded many departments and services.

“That’s really allowed the hospital to come back into its own,” McLaurin said.

The seven-story facility, located at 2000 Brookside Drive just off Highway 93 (N. John B. Dennis Highway), has grown to include 178 operating beds and offers an array of services, including an Interventional Cardiology program, a Joint Replacement & Spine Center, a Cancer Center, Surgery, a Family Birth Center, 24-hour emergency department, Comprehensive Diagnostic Imaging, and a Sleep Disorders Lab.

Jones, one of the original eight IPMC team members, said she’s honored to be part of such a quality team.

“I take great pride in being here for these 40 years to see IPMC maintain the same level of caring for our patients that we all had on that opening day.”

McLaurin, who took over as CEO in 2004, joked about the hospital’s history and its future.

“Most people associate hitting 40 with a mid-life crisis. Here at Indian Path Medical Center we’re just getting started!”


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