Medical breakthrough: Remembering Flint-Goodridge Hospital
At the turn of the 20th century, New Orleans University — which would later become part of Dillard University — boasted one of the few medical schools for African-American physicians in the country. Flint Medical College, which traced its roots to the founding of a sanitarium and nursing school that was started in 1896, closed its doors in 1911, but the buildings — at Canal and Robertson streets — remained and in March 1916 were converted into a 50-bed hospital that would serve the black community of New Orleans for decades. In addition to becoming a training facility for doctors from all over the country, the new Flint-Goodridge Hospital was throughout the Jim Crow era the only private hospital in New Orleans that granted black doctors staff privileges — and thus the only private hospital in the city at which black patients could be admitted under the care of their own physicians.
Like many parts of New Orleans history, the hospital isn’t there anymore. It underwent a number of transitions during the 20th century, including expanding and moving to Louisiana Avenue, but by the early 1980s, the hospital was losing money and Dillard University was no longer able to support the institution. Dillard sold Flint-Goodridge Hospital in 1983 to a national hospital chain, which never re-opened the facility. The Louisiana Avenue buildings that housed the hospital are now home to the Flint-Goodridge Apartments.
- Flint-Goodridge Hospital’s name represented a merging of Flint Medical College and the Sarah Goodridge Hospital and Nurses Training School, which shared the same buildings since 1901. John Flint, of Massachusetts, was a key benefactor of Flint Medical College. Sarah Goodridge was the mother of Caroline Medge, also of Massachusetts and one of the key benefactors of her namesake hospital.
- One of the most famous parts of Flint-Goodridge Hospital’s legacy was the penny-a-day plan. The insurance plan cost black New Orleanians — you guessed it — a penny a day and provided them with 21 days of hospitalization in a year. Before the penny-a-day program was instated, the hospital offered six-dollar-a-year hospitalization to black teachers and postal workers.
- Flint-Goodridge also offered New Orleans and Louisiana opportunities that few other places could provide at the time. In the 1930s, the hospital was the only medical school in the state for med students of color. At one point, the hospital had 29 African-American doctors on staff — an impressive amount for the time period. These educational and other opportunities made Flint-Goodridge stand out among other, similar hospitals.
- Ernest Morial, Sydney Barthelemy, and Marc Moral had more in common than simply being born in New Orleans or being the first three black mayors of New Orleans. All were also born at Flint-Goodridge Hospital.
- The building that housed Flint-Goodridge, at 2425 Louisiana Avenue, was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
- In 1953, Dillard turned the hospital’s operations over to a management board. Instead of being run by an institute of higher education, the hospital became a community-run organization. In turn, this boosted the hospital’s relationship to the surrounding communities. During the ’50s and ’60s, the hospital held functions focused on healthy living and that included events including bazaars and baby contests. This fostered sentiments of solidarity within the community.
- Before the hospital closed, a group of black physicians, dentists and pharmacists tried to buy it, but they were unable to. The New York Times quoted New Orleans investment banker Keith Butler as saying at the time that “the sale is ‘part of a continuing pattern, a demolition of minority businesses that once thrived in the deep segregated South.'”
Despite the huge racial inequities present throughout New Orleans’ history, Flint-Goodridge Hospital was groundbreaking in the city’s evolution toward progress. The hospital provided a true community center that cultivated talent through the education of black doctors and provided a necessary service to the black citizens. It also guaranteed care without fear of discrimination to the underserved citizens of New Orleans.