Our History: 1950s - 1990s

About Sentara Healthcare

About Sentara Healthcare

1950s - 1990s: Expansion, Growth and Innovation 

While Norfolk’s medical facilities grew upward and Charlottesville and Harrisonburg’s hospitals grew outward, other communities in Virginia were just starting. Based in South Boston, VA, Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital was founded in 1953 to serve Halifax, Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties and surrounding communities. In Hampton, Victoria Boulevard became the new location for Dixie Hospital in 1959. Two years later, Williamsburg Community Hospital opened, and The General Hospital of Virginia Beach began serving patients. It relocated to its present site in 1965.

On December 28, 1982, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital gained worldwide fame when America's first in-vitro baby was born.

A major accomplishment was achieved in 1967 when doctors at Norfolk General performed the first open-heart surgery in the region. By the 1970’s the hospital was averaging 150 procedures per year and decided to open Virginia’s first cardiac rehabilitation program.

At the same time, in Northern Virginia, the Potomac Hospital Corporation was being formed to support the development of a new community hospital in Prince William County. Potomac Hospital officially opened in November of 1972.

In 1972, Norfolk General and Leigh Memorial Hospital merged and opened the state’s first freestanding ambulatory surgical center. In the same year, Dixie Hospital was renamed Hampton General Hospital. Bayside Hospital opened in Virginia Beach in 1975, and two years later, Leigh Memorial Hospital moved to its present location.

The ’80s continued to be a time of rapid change and growth. Nightingale air ambulance, home healthcare, nursing homes and urgent care were added to Medical Center Hospitals (the merged Norfolk General and Leigh). Optima HMO Health Plan was introduced and began accepting subscribers in 1984. The system was officially named Sentara in 1986. Also during that time, The General Hospital of Virginia Beach was renamed Virginia Beach General Hospital.

In 1995, Sentara Medical Group (SMG), a division of Sentara Healthcare, was formed for primary care and specialty physicians to care for patients across the serving communities. With efforts to improve total community health, this formation allowed for many community physicians to focus more on the patient. The Sentara Health Foundation was established in 1998 to help Sentara Healthcare give back to the community of Hampton Roads. The RMH Healthcare Foundation (est. 1975), Martha Jefferson Foundation (est. 2002), and Halifax Regional Development Foundation (est. 1996) are also foundations of the Sentara family that service their respective communities.


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