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100 Years Later: How One Local Hospital Has Enhanced Healthcare in the Athens-Clarke County Area

As a centennial celebration, Piedmont Athens Regional made $300,000 gift for area’s first school-based health clinic

Athens, Ga. (Oct. 10, 2019) – Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center recently celebrated its centennial year with a birthday party in the community park located on the hospital’s campus. In addition to the hospital’s centennial birthday party event, the hospital will celebrate by giving a gift back to the community it serves with a $300,000 donation for the Athens-area’s first school-based health clinic. 

Birthday party celebrations included a proclamation from Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz, the burial of a hospital time capsule, dedication of the Athens Area Cancer Auxiliary’s garden angel located in the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support’s healing garden, and an awards ceremony for the winners of the hospital’s “Why Piedmont Is Important” essay contest.

The buried capsule, scheduled to be reopened in 50 years, contained memories from the hospital’s centennial celebrations, including photos and a letter from Piedmont Athens Regional chief executive officer (CEO) Michael Burnett.

Since first opening its doors to the community as Athens General Hospital in 1919, Piedmont Athens Regional has evolved from a 100-bed hospital into a thriving community hospital that is currently licensed for 359 beds.

Today, the hospital serves a 17-county area in northeast Georgia, employing more than 2,650 and caring for more than 85,000 patients in the emergency department, 21,300 inpatients and 210,000 outpatient visitors annually.

“We are proud to have played such a vital role in the history of Athens-Clarke County and to be a trusted partner in its health and wellbeing for the last 100 years,” said Burnett. “This is a huge milestone not only for our dedicated hospital staff but also for our patients and families who have entrusted us with their care for the past 100 years. We look forward to caring for this amazing community for 100 more.”

As the healthcare needs of the community have grown over the years, Piedmont Athens Regional has remained committed to expanding its services to bring more specialized care close to home, along with maximizing the hospital’s capacity to better serve patients.

The hospital is the second largest employer in the region and contributes more than $800 million annually to the local economy. Over the years, Piedmont Athens Regional has garnered national acclaim in cardiac care, including open heart and thoracic surgery, orthopedics and sports medicine, neurosciences and neurosurgery, minimally invasive surgeries, and women and children’s services like pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and neonatal intensive care.

It’s also one of the only Georgia affiliates for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the official healthcare provider for the University of Georgia Athletic Association.

Recognizing the need to make upgrades to some of the original patient areas in the hospital, Piedmont Athens Regional also recently began its $171 million expansion and renovation project, expected to be completed in 2022.

“With the expansion and renovation of this 100-year-old space, we’re preparing for the next 100 years,” Burnett said. “This project will replace old patient areas in our hospital and provide state-of-the-art equipment that will ultimately provide a better experience for our patients and better serve our community.”

The hospital has also expanded access to more support programs and services for patients with the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support and Beautiful You Boutique, a free boutique located on the Piedmont Athens Regional campus that specializes in products for women who have had or are going to have breast surgery.

The Loran Smith Center provides services and programs like yoga, nutrition classes, therapies and counseling for anyone affected by cancer at any phase in the cancer journey – regardless of where an individual receives his or her cancer treatment. Both services are funded through the Piedmont Athens Regional Foundation.

“These investments reflect our commitment to providing high-quality, patient-centered care and to enhancing our patients’ overall experience,” Burnett said. “And as a not-for-profit hospital, we are grateful for the ongoing support and generosity of our donors which allows us to continue expand our services and offer numerous programs at no cost to our community.

Piedmont Athens Regional’s efforts to deliver the highest-quality care closer to home have not gone unnoticed. As a testament to this, the hospital has been a recipient of multiple awards and designations for quality and patient safety including receiving the Leapfrog Group’s Top Teaching Hospital Award in 2018, ranking in Newsweek’s World’s Best Hospital List in 2018, and landing a top ten spot for top hospitals in Georgia by the U.S. News & World Report in 2018.

As a token of appreciation to the community for their many years of support, Piedmont Athens Regional has partnered with the Clarke County School District, Athens Neighborhood Health Center and Advantage Behavioral Health Systems to open the Athens-area’s first school-based health clinic – named the Hilsman Health Center after one of the schools it will provides services to. 

The Hilsman Health Center will be staffed by clinicians from the Athens Neighborhood Health Center and Advantage Behavioral Health Systems. 

The Piedmont Athens Regional Foundation donated $300,000 to assist with the renovation and construction of the clinic, as well as its medical and supply costs. The clinic’s doors will open this month, with a ribbon cutting event planned for Tuesday, Oct. 22.

“We wanted to do something special for the community that’s supported us for 100 years.  This is our birthday present to the community,” said Tammy Gilland, executive director of philanthropy at Piedmont Athens Regional. “From the hospital’s original planning stages in 1919 up until today, the Athens-Clarke County and surrounding communities have continued to support our hospital. We’re proud to be able to celebrate this huge milestone and look forward to what the future brings for our hospital and the patients and visitors we serve.” 

Photo by: Kristin M. Bradshaw, with Spotted Photography Athens

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