French Hospital 75th Anniversary - French Hospital

French Hospital

Celebrating 75 Years of Going Beyond

This year, French Hospital Medical Center celebrates 75 years of providing exceptional care to the residents of San Luis Obispo. Since opening our doors in 1946, our vision of combining physicians from top medical schools, the latest advanced technologies, and high-quality care right here in our community is a promise we continue to keep.

Today, as our community continues to grow, we remain committed to being at the forefront of health care. With that, we are building the hospital of the future, Your New French Hospital which will transform the current campus and set the standard for care on the Central Coast. 

Thank you to our community for allowing us to care for you over the past 75 years!

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75 years ago, French Hospital Medical Center opened its doors in San Luis Obispo with a mission to provide exceptional health care for every stage of life.

The French Hospital story began in 1946, when Dr. Edison French purchased the San Luis Sanitarium on Marsh Street and renamed it French Hospital.

While Dr. Edison French was establishing French Hospital in the mid 1940’s, Audrienne Gilardi Carano babysat for the French family (shown here with Dr. French’s son, Chuck).

At a young age, Dr. Edison French lost his three older sisters to the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 which made him passionate about a career in medicine.

Dr. Edison French had a dream to bring big city medical care to San Luis Obispo and eventually hired board certified specialists in the mid 1970’s to expand his staff.

As French Hospital began to gain momentum Dr. French hired Tom Coull as one of the first hospital administrators in 1951.

In 1952, Dr. George French headed to San Luis Obispo to join his brother, Dr. Edison French, at French Hospital.

One of Dr. French’s first recruits was Dr. Louis Tedone, who cared for many San Luis Obispo County children between 1953-1976.

In 1969, accountant Ken Friedmann took control of hospital operations in an effort to help Dr. French grow the hospital.

In 1970, Dr. George French performed the first total hip arthroplasty in San Luis Obispo County at French Hospital.

From 1970-1971, the construction of a new hospital at the current Johnson Avenue location was well underway.

 

In 1972, Dr. Edison French closed the doors to the French Hospital located on Marsh Street and opened the doors to a larger French Hospital located on Johnson Avenue.

 

Back in 1975, Dr. Edison French was looking for the first cardiologist to join him at French Hospital and luckily, found Dr. David Harvey. 

In 1976, after Dr. Edison French had transformed health care in San Luis Obispo, he was ready for others to carry on his legacy in our community. 

Registered Nurse Karen Trask started her career at French Hospital in 1977 and is a great example of what makes French Hospital special. 

Work culture has always been very important at French Hospital and starting in the 1970’s, French Hospital hosted an annual employee appreciation event.

Through many changes at French Hospital, the caregivers and physicians were the backbone of the hospital.

Volunteers are at the heart of French Hospital. They share a common spirit to care for others.

Starting in the 1980’s, French Hospital served as the primary emergency facility to employees at Diablo Canyon.

In 1981, French Hospital built the first catheterization laboratory and performed the first cardiac surgery in SLO County.

Janet Hofmeister has been working at French Hospital for the longest (39 years) and was born at the original French Hospital.

In 1985, the French Hospital family lost its founder, Dr. Edison French.

In 1986, the lack of CPR training for local residents prompted Linda Peterson, RN to become Director of Education for French Hospital.

In 1989, registered nurse Jill Urmy joined the French Hospital family. It’s the friendships and the people that have kept Jill at French Hospital all of these years.

Julie Fogelson, RN, has held many positions since starting at French Hospital in 1989, watching the hospital grow and growing along with it.

In 1994, a young 13-year old Fijian boy named Nadau flew to SLO to receive care at French Hospital for a heart condition.

In 1995, Dr. Jac Pedersen led the effort to help a Christmas Island boy named Busi who was in need of medical attention.

In 1996, French Hospital’s cardiac surgery program was recognized as the #1 program in California.

In 1997, Helen Rowan, RN, OCN, CTR, joined French Hospital to spearhead the new Oncology Program.

French Hospital delivered its first baby in their brand new obstetrics unit on Tuesday, January 1, 1998.

In 2004, French Hospital was acquired by Dignity Health, and current President and CEO, Alan Iftiniuk was hired.

In July 2004, French Hospital established its first Community Board, with Ke-Ping Tsao, MD as the first Board Chair.

In 2005, the French Hospital Medical Center Foundation was established and Barbara George, EdD, was the first Board Chair.

Jim Sargen joined the French Hospital board in 2005 and shortly after made a planned gift.

Beginning in 2006, reaching out to Spanish speaking patients became a major focus at French Hospital.

Established in 2006, the Louis Tedone, MD Humanitarian Award is a special award that honors the legacy of Dr. Louis Tedone.

Jim Flanagan, a retired Cal Poly instructor, established an education endowment at French Hospital in 2006.

Thanks to funding from the Hearst family and The Hearst Foundations, the Hearst Cancer Resource Center opened in 2008.

The Copeland, Forbes & Rossi Cardiac Care Center opened in 2007.

New Breast MRI technology at French Hospital.

The Hearst Cancer Resource Center opened in 2008.

French Hospital’s Healing Garden was unveiled in 2008.

Advanced technology helps French Hospital offer bone densitometer scans.

French Hospital opened a free outdoor Fitness Zone in 2009.

Community benefits become a core focus in 2009.

French Hospital acquires a state-of-the-art hip replacement table.

French Hospital’s ER receives 5-star rating for ER care.

Valuable community partnership with Cal Poly and other local businesses and organizations.

French Hospital Women’s Diagnostic Center underwent a renovation in 2011.

French Hospital was recognized as a 100 Top Hospital and a 50 Top Cardiac Hospital in the nation in 2012.

Dignity Health is the first health system in the nation to switch to dye-free products in 2012.

French Hospital breaks ground on the Advanced Hybrid Surgical Suite.

The Clarks have been avid supporters of French Hospital, including their most recent transformational gift.

The Chubons made a significant contribution to the Hearst Cancer Resource Center in 2014.

Rick Stollmeyer and Lori Ryan have been supporters for years and helped fund the remodel of the Family Birthing Center.

French Hospital’s Copeland Health Education Pavilion opened in 2015.

Art installations are incorporated throughout campus to promote healing.

In 2016, French Hospital announced the donation of eight automated external defibrillators to Cal Poly Athletics.

In 2016, the French Hospital Foundation was named “Foundation of the Year”.

In 2016, French Hospital and Dignity Health Central Coast’s physician clinic system opened the San Luis Obispo Perinatal Center.

In 2017, French Hospital opened the doors to the new Stollmeyer Family Birthing Center.

In 2017, Noreen Martin and Dr. Chris Hulburd, established a cancer education fund through the Hearst Cancer Resource Center.

In 2017, French Hospital received an extraordinary donation of $5.5 million from Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer.

In 2018, French Hospital was pleased to introduce the acquisition of the innovative da Vinci Xi Surgical System.

On July 20, 2018, the Chaplain at French Hospital had the honor of being the officiant for a special wedding in ICU.

In 2019, the Celebration of Caring Gala raised more than $500,000, including a $250,000 match from The Stollmeyers.

In June 2019, French Hospital announced the largest capital campaign to date.

Bill and Cheryl Swanson made a transformational gift of $2.75 million to the Beyond Health campaign in 2019 which will fund the Swanson Family Chapel.

The Wackers donated $350,000 to the Beyond Health campaign in 2019.

In 2020, Dr. Andrea Tackett became the first female Chief of Staff at French Hospital.

In January 2020, French Hospital opened the doors to the new Oppenheimer Family Center for Emergency Medicine.

2020 took the world by storm when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe.

In 2020, the Ronca’s made a generous gift to support the Beyond Health campaign which will fund the Ronca Family Plaza.

In 2021, French Hospital was recognized as a Healthgrades 2021 Patient Safety Excellence Award recipient.

In April 2021, French Hospital celebrated a historic groundbreaking for the Swanson Family Chapel.

In early 2021, the French Hospital Foundation announced that it had reached a major milestone by raising more than $50 million.

Today, as our community continues to grow, we remain committed to being at the forefront of health care as we build the hospital of the future, Your New French Hospital.

We welcome you to follow along as the Beyond Health campaign continues to shape and change our community’s health care. Sign up below to join the conversation through campaign updates, progress, new developments, and learn more about how you can get involved.