History - St. Mary's Hospital and Health Care System

St. Mary's history of compassion and care for the people of Northeast Georgia dates back to 1906 — over 100 years. We have been in continuous operation since 1938 under the sponsorship of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and since 2013, Catholic Health Ministries. Our values and mission flow from their devotion and service to God and humanity.

“We arrived in Athens at the Seaboard Railroad Station on the Silver Comet at 6 a.m., May 13, 1938. The local Pastor, Father Harold Barr, and a committee from the parish of St. Joseph’s welcomed us to our Convent, which was located on Harris Street, ‘The first dirt road on the left.’ Father Barr offered to give us a lift in his car. Mother Columba declined, saying that we might as well begin our journey right then and there on foot in the mud to our new home. This spirit was typical of Mother Columba’s philosophy of facing the cross of the moment and with Christ’s help going forward.”

— Sister Sara, M.S.C., one of the four Sisters who came to Athens in 1938 to reopen and operate St. Mary’s Hospital. From her memoirs, “I remember…”

Timeline

1906

Drs. Henry Marshall Fullilove and J. Peebles Proctor open St. Mary’s Hospital in a residence on North Milledge Avenue. The hospital is closed in 1937 following their deaths.

1938

At the request of leaders of civic and medical groups in Athens, the Diocese of Georgia buys the hospital and property. Members of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reopen and operate St. Mary’s.

1954

St. Mary’s is accredited by the newly-formed Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals (later renamed the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations). St. Mary’s has been continuously accredited ever since, most recently in 2006.

1966

St. Mary’s Hospital moves from Milledge Avenue to a larger, more modern building on Baxter Street. New services include an intensive care unit. Edward J. Fechtel Jr., is named as St. Mary’s first lay administrator.

1970

St. Mary’s Home Health Care Services begins, the second hospital-based home health care service in Georgia. Hospice services are added in 1991. 

1978

St. Mary’s neonatal intensive care unit opens, providing lifesaving care and technology to premature infants and extremely ill babies.

1983

The hospital opens a new Intensive Care Unit and adds a sixth floor to the main tower. The new medical/surgical unit brings St. Mary's licensed capacity to 196 beds.

1985

A free-standing Outpatient Surgical Center is opened and new space is added for radiology, cardiopulmonary, rehabilitation and more.

1990

At the request of the community, St. Mary’s begins providing hospice services in Clarke County and later expands hospice to include a 13-county area.

1991

St. Mary’s acquires the 120-bed Athens Health Care Center, now known as St. Mary’s Hospital Long Term Care Facility.

1992

New surgical suite opens, providing large new operating rooms, new pre-op and post-anesthesia recovery areas and sophisticated sterilization procedures.

1993

St. Mary’s changes its legal name from Saint Mary’s Hospital of Athens, Inc., to St. Mary’s Health Care System, Inc. to better reflect the continuum of care it provides.

1997

St. Mary’s acquires Highland Hills Village, a retirement community near Bogart, enhancing its continuum of care for people of all ages.

1999

The University of Georgia Athletic Association designates St. Mary’s as its official health care provider. The agreement has been continuously renewed ever since.

1999

St. Mary’s celebrates its change in sponsorship from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, and its full membership in Catholic Health East. Thomas E. Fitz, Jr., becomes St. Mary’s second lay President and CEO.

2000

St. Mary’s announces a new emphasis in five medical specialties with the goal of becoming known as the region’s leading provider of care in: Neurosciences, Orthopedics, Women’s Health, Children’s Health and Gastroenterology. A special focus on Senior Services is added in 2002 and on Cardiac Care in 2005.

2000

St. Mary’s, in cooperation with the Medical College of Georgia, begins offering Children’s Specialty Services, providing expert pediatric medical consultations in Athens.

2000

St. Mary’s introduces the StealthStation neurosurgical platform to Northeast Georgia, providing a highly accurate way for surgeons to perform certain procedures on the spine and brain.

2001

St. Mary’s opens the Clute Barrow Nelson Children’s Center, including the region’s largest pediatric-capable general nursing unit. The center is first of its kind in the nation to be named in honor of a child.

2002

St. Mary’s announces a $40 million renovation and expansion project to establish Athens’ first acute rehabilitation unit and improve neurosciences, women’s services, labor and delivery services, radiology, emergency medical care and more.

2002

In cooperation with Athens area physicians, St. Mary’s launches Athens’ first hospitalist program.

2003

The Center for Rehabilitative Medicine, a 20-bed unit devoted to the care of patients recovering from neurological disorders and major orthopedic procedures.

2004

St. Mary’s is certified as North Georgia’s first Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

2006

St. Mary’s becomes one of the first hospitals in the U.S. to implant a new wireless cardiac resynchronization therapy device that can communicate vital information to physicians from the patient’s home.

2006

Georgia Alliance of Community Hospital's named St. Mary's "Hospital of the Year" in the large hospital category.

2006

PHA, the Partnership for Health and Accountability, announces that St. Mary's achieved a perfect score of 100 - the highest in the state - for quality of care delivered in 2005.

2006

St. Mary's introduces the regions' first 64-slice CT scanner, the Toshiba Aquilion 64 CFX.

2006

St. Mary's is named a Neuroscience Center of Excellence by NeuroSource. St. Mary's is one of only 46 such centers in the US and one of two in Georgia.

2007

In January, Athens Cardiac Arrhythmia Center opens at St. Mary's. It is the first practice of its kind in the Athens are, providing a 'one stop shop' for the care and treatment of irregular heart rhythms.

2007

In February, St. Mary's Center for Rehabilitative Medicine is accredited for the first time by CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

2007

In March, St. Mary's is named one of 19 Top CARE Hospitals in Georgia by the Georgia Hospital Association, which cited excellence in 6 key healthcare measures including, patient safety, core quality measures and cost.

2007

In April, St. Mary's opened a new, state-of-the-art Cardiac Catheterization and Electrophysiology Laboratory. Both labs are capable of handling the implementation of pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillators.

2007

St. Mary's becomes one of the first 25 hospitals in the nation to be certified as a center for the care and treatment of heart failure by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

2008

St. Mary's joins with cardiologists John Layher, M.D., and L. Steven Lowman, M.D., in April to form Oconee Heart & Vascular Center, a new, full-service cardiovascular practice to serve the Athens area.

2008

On July 10, St. Mary's celebrates the 70th anniversary of the hospital's reopening in 1938 by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

2008

St. Mary's breaks ground on October 23 for a $5.5 million, 34-bed Alzheimer's/Dementia Care Facility on the campus of Highland Hills Village.

2008

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations awards St. Mary's its Gold Seal of Approval for knee replacement.

2008

President and CEO Thomas Fitz steps down on December 31 after leading St. Mary's for nearly 10 years, a period of unprecedented growth for the system.

2009

Don McKenna, former Administrator/Chief Operating Officer of Wuesthoff Medical Center in Melbourne, Fla., on January 5 takes office as President and CEO of St. Mary's Health Care System.

2010

St. Mary's receives the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award.

2010

Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals names St. Mary’s as Georgia’s Large Hospital of the Year for the second time in only four years.

2010

St. Mary’s and Angela McSwain, M.D., open St. Mary’s Neurological Services in Watkinsville.

2011

St. Mary’s is named the Number 1 hospital in Georgia for total joint replacement surgery in 2011 by Georgia Trend magazine.

2011

Several medical practices join St. Mary's Medical Group, including Northeast Cardiology, Athens Internal Medicine and Athens General and Colorectal Surgeons.

2011

Stroke survivor Sally Baker and St. Mary’s Foundation host the inaugural Next Step 5K to raise funds for St. Mary’s stroke care programs.

2011

St. Mary's introduces numerous medical advances to the Athens area, including the region's first MRI-safe implantable pacemaker on March 17 and the region's first O-arm Multidimensional Imaging System for spine surgery on March 29.

2011

St. Mary’s announces it has signed a letter of intent to purchase St. Joseph’s East Georgia in Greensboro and plans to construct a new, modern facility to better serve the people of the Greensboro/Lake Oconee region.

2011

The American Hospital Association announces that St. Mary’s received the Circle of Life Award Citation of Honor for palliative and hospice care. Only seven organizations in the United States are recognized, three with the full award and four, including St. Mary's, as honorees.

2012

Jan. 1 – St. Mary’s acquires Saint Joseph at East Georgia in Greensboro from Saint Joseph Health System of Atlanta and changed its name to St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital.

2012

Feb. 27 – The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and International Lactation Consultant Association recognized St. Mary’s breastfeeding program with the IBCLC Care Award.

2012

Feb. 28 – St. Mary’s first minimally invasive patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure was performed by interventional cardiologist Patrick Willis, M.D., in St. Mary’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. At roughly the same time, the lab introduces new technology to allow for radial access PCI as well as interventional catheterization for peripheral artery disease.

2012

March 1 – Eric Silver, M.D., joins St. Mary’s Medical Group in Greensboro. His practice is named St. Mary’s Women’s Center.

2012

June 12 – St. Mary’s announced its commitment to developing a Graduate Medical Education program – medical residencies – in partnership with the Georgia Health Sciences University/University of Georgia Partnership Medical School.

2012

July 3 – James Tippett, M.D., joins St. Mary’s Medical Group in Greensboro. His practice is named Middle Georgia Medical Associates.

2012

July 12 – The American Heart Association awards St. Mary’s its Mission: Lifeline Bronze Quality Achievement Award for heart attack care.

2012

Aug. 16 – St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital breaks ground for a new replacement hospital on Ga. 44 between West Lake Road and Carey Station Road. Grading begins the week of Oct. 15.

2012

Sept. 10 – St. Mary’s received the Healthcare Financial Management Association MAP Award for revenue cycle improvement.

2012

Sept. 26 – Northeast Georgia’s first robotic single-site cholecystectomy was performed at St. Mary’s by Sergio Mejias, M.D., using St. Mary’s da Vinci Si robotic surgical system.

2012

Oct. 4 – National Research Corporation presented St. Mary’s with its 2012 Path to Excellence Award for improving patient satisfaction scores related to information and education.

2012

Oct. 17-St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital was named one of the top 20 critical access hospitals (CAHs) for Quality in the country.

2012

Nov. 26- Center for Wound Healing opened featuring hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other state-of-the-art treatments for patients with chronic wounds.

2012

Nov. 28- D. Montez Carter, PharmD, MBA, was named president of St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital.

2012

Dec. 10- St. Mary’s named among the best 100 hospitals for patient experience, OB, orthopedics by WomenCertified® distinguishing it as one of the 2012 America’s Best Hospitals for Patient Experience.

2012

Dec. 13- St. Mary’s Health Care System was honored as a 2012 Gold-Level Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association, demonstrating that St. Mary’s provides numerous opportunities for employees to improve and maintain their health and fitness on and off the job.

2013

Jan. 4- St. Mary’s Health Care System received the 2012 Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold-Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

2013

Jan. 9- Middle Georgia Medical Associates (MMA) relocated to a new and expanded clinic, James Tippett, M.D., Middle Georgia Medical Director for St. Mary’s Medical Group.

2013

Jan. 9- St. Mary’s earns Women’s Choice Award for best hospital in obstetrics Selection of St. Mary’s Hospital on list of “Best Hospitals for Patient Experience in Obstetrics” is based on women’s preferences, recommendation rating and clinical excellence.

2013

Feb. 22- St. Mary’s names Blake Watts Vice President of Physician and Professional Services.

2013

May 1- Trinity Health and Catholic Health East Mark First Day as a Consolidated System.

2013

May 15- St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Partnership for Health and Accountability (PHA) Core Measures Honor Roll.

2013

May 28- Healthgrades ranks St. Mary’s one of America's 100 Best Hospitals for stroke care, joint replacement, general surgery & GI care.

2013

June 14- The personal care and memory care units at St. Mary’s Highland Hills Village passed rigorous state inspections for assisted living communities, making Highland Hills the first personal care facility in the Athens-Oconee area to successfully upgrade to licensure as an assisted living community.

2013

July 1- Two board-certified general surgeons, Andrew Lawrence, M.D., and Ryan Katz, M.D., joined Sergio Mejias, M.D., and the practice of Athens General and Colorectal Surgeons.

2013

Aug. 8- St. Mary’s Health Care System launched a new patient portal, MyHealth, that gives anyone who receives care at St. Mary’s the power to access their electronic medical record 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

2013

Aug. 16- St. Mary’s Health Care System generated more than $365.7 million in revenue for the local and state economy in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, according to a recent report by the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA), the state’s largest hospital trade association.

2013

Sept. 1- Alan R. Morgan, M.D.,  joined St. Mary’s Neurological Specialists as a neurohospitalist, a physician who specializes in providing neurological care to patients while they are in the hospital.

2013

Sept. 12- The Capital Campaign for St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital surged ahead recently when officials from BankSouth announced they  made a $400,000 donation to help the hospital acquire state-of-the-art equipment, furnishings and technology.

2013

Sept. 15- St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Hospital Engagement Network Safety Leaders Circle, which recognizes hospitals’ improvements in patient care for the second quarter of 2013.

2013

Sept. 16- Roland W. Nash, M.D., joined Middle Georgia Medial Associates as a primary care physician specializing in Family Medicine.

2013

Nov. 14- A Greene County couple made a transformational gift that significantly enhanced the level of services available at the new hospital: Dick and Wendy O’Toole gave a $1 million gift.

2013

Nov. 15- Erick Avelar, M.D., FACC, a board-certified cardiologist joined Oconee Heart and Vascular Center.

2013

Nov. 25- St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital opened its modern new facility at 5401 Lake Oconee Parkway.

2013

Dec. 23- St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Hospital Engagement Network (HEN) Safety Leaders Circle, which recognizes hospitals’ improvements in patient care for the third quarter of 2013.

2013

Dec. 30- In honor of the former employees of Chipman-Union, the Chipman-Union Foundation donated $25,000 to St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in support of the capital funding of the hospital’s new building.

2014

Jan. 2- Mark Visitacion, M.D., a specialist in Infectious Diseases, joined St. Mary’s Medical Group.

2014

Jan. 16- St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital was designated as Georgia’s first Remote Treatment Stroke Center by the Georgia Department of Public Health Office of EMS/Trauma.

2014

Jan. 16- St. Mary’s Health Care System received its fourth consecutive American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.

2014

Jan. 27-St. Mary’s Health Care System received the 2014 Women’s Choice Award® ranking among America’s Best Hospitals for Patient Experience in Obstetrics.

2014

Jan. 28- The Internal Medicine Residency Program, a joint effort of the Georgia Regents University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and St. Mary’s Health Care System, received accreditation.

2014

Feb. 11-St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Partnership for Health and Accountability (PHA) Core Measures Honor Roll.

2014

Feb. 14- St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital took another huge step forward when Reynolds Plantation recently announced its pledge of $1 million to the hospital Foundation’s capital campaign effort.

2014

Feb. 21- St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Partnership for Health and Accountability (PHA) Core Measures Honor Roll.

2014

March 11- St. Mary’s Health Care System announced the appointment of businessman Chris Caldwell and University of Georgia executive Ralph Johnson to the system’s Board of Directors.

2014

April 9- St. Mary's implants area's first S-ICD. A new, life-saving device is now available at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens for people at risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

2014

April 28-  Two long-time Athens family practice physicians, Farris Johnson, Jr., M.D. FAAFP, and Vasu N. “Marty” Murthy, M.D., joined St. Mary’s Medical Group as Johnson and Murthy Family Practice.

2014

May 19- St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Partnership for Health and Accountability (PHA) Core Measures Honor Roll.

2014

July 7- Physicians David C. Gaines, M.D., and Alice Edwards, M.D., opened a new primary care medical practice, Georgia Family Medicine.

2014

July 14- Internal Medicine specialist Matthew S. Farmer, M.D., joined Athens Internal Medicine Associates.

2014

July 24- St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens was named to the Georgia Hospital Association’s (GHA) Partnership for Health and Accountability (PHA) Core Measures Honor Roll.

2014

Nov 19- Our parent company changed their name to Trinity Health.