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The Story of Our History, Our Values


Beneath the crystalline surfaces of the San Juan, Animas and La Plata rivers runs an ageless and powerful current that has cut through time, nurturing the landscape, and shaping the history of the Four Corners.

Like the life-giving properties of our rivers, the timeless values of Doctors G.W. Sammons and A.M. Smith have fed a century of growth and vision that have made San Juan Regional Medical Center the high-quality health system it is today.

When Sammons and Smith opened the first Four Corners “family hospital” in 1910, it was their personal calling to meet a community need. The doctors, with the help of two nursing staff, tirelessly served San Juan County in a humble four-room, eight-bed facility.   The values that drove Drs. Sammons and Smith to open a family hospital are still alive and well at San Juan Regional Medical Center today.  Those values are sacred trust, personal reverence, thoughtful anticipation, team accountability and creative vitality.

Just 10 years later, the creative vitality of nine impassioned individuals formed the San Juan County Hospital Association and raised $6,000 to build a new hospital to meet the growing community’s needs.  By 1922, the hospital’s bed count doubled and was serving a population of 1,200. Public donations of time, money and supplies — as well as personal funds from the members of the Board of Directors — kept the hospital afloat.

By 1950, the small community hospital could not keep pace with a population boom in the San Juan Basin brought about by the construction of the first natural gas pipeline through the area. In 1952, the San Juan County Hospital Association deeded the building and land to San Juan County, which allowed a public bond election to finance a one-story, 40-bed facility. The county leased this new building and land to the newly incorporated, not-for-profit San Juan Hospital.

The 1960s and 1970s were exciting years of growth and included the opening of the hospital’s first Intensive Care Unit and X-ray wing.  A 21-bed surgical ward and a Nuclear Medicine Department came online in the early 1970s, and in 1977, the hospital was renamed the San Juan Regional Medical Center, reflecting its dedication to bringing high-quality, patient-centered health care to the entire region. During that same year, the voters approved a $6.8 million bond issue for the expansion of a new five-story facility with 143 beds.

Throughout the 1980s, the hospital experienced the greatest expansion in services to date and technology was the driving force. Remodeling of the Childbirth Center, ICU expansion, the addition of Dialysis Service and a 10-bed Nephrology Unit, remodeling of the Emergency Department and the expansion of the Endoscopy and Cardiopulmonary lab were completed.

Building bridges for future visions, the San Juan Medical Foundation was formed in 1985.  It is committed to enhancing healthcare in the Four Corners region in cooperation with San Juan Regional Medical Center.   Its fundraising efforts made possible the San Juan Regional Cancer Treatment Center.  Robert W. Umbach, a local oil and gas businessman, was treated for cancer at the San Juan Regional Cancer Center.  He was so pleased with his care that he generously left his estate for cancer treatment and care.  The Robert W. Umbach Foundation funds everything from high tech equipment such as the linear accelerator to education and support funding for cancer patients.

In the late 1980s, the hospital became home to the region’s most advanced — and New Mexico’s first — Magnetic Resonance Imaging system, or MRI.  Recognizing our large service area of over 250,000 miles, Air Care took flight in 1986 as the first air transport service in the region providing rapid response and transport in rural areas.

In 1989, recognizing the need to expand our services beyond the boundaries of the traditional acute care hospital, SJRMC again turned to its physician partners to build the Interface Rehabilitation Hospital, now San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.

The 1990s ushered in a new day surgery unit, a new ICU, the Center’s first Cardiac Catheterization Lab, and a new 19,000-square-foot Childbirth Center. SJMRC was designated a Level III Trauma Center and to improve access to non-emergent and primary care, the Urgent Care Center was opened.

The turn of the 21st Century brought new growth with the addition of a 22-exam room Emergency Department, a new Wound Care Center, an Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit and the Connelly Hospitality House, an 8000-square-foot home for out of town patients and their families.

Even with the rapid expansion in services, it was clear that San Juan Regional Medical Center was at capacity and that a truly visionary move was needed to stay the course in unsteady waters.

Visioning 2002 was that bold move. This highly creative and interactive process brought together the board, staff, community and other stakeholders to thoughtfully anticipate the vision of what healthcare should look like in the coming years.   The $80-million expansion and renovation project at San Juan Regional Medical Center celebrated values such as a personal reverence for care and healing, team accountability and creative vitality for working together. In August 2006, the East Tower project was complete. The family-centered focus is apparent by just walking in the door. Private rooms, healing gardens, family kitchens, meditation rooms and liberal visiting hours make the patient experience more personal.

But, the creative vitality of our healing philosophy extends beyond the care given in our facilities.  Support groups such as Better Breathers, Breastfeeding and others provide education and support to our patients, their families and to our community.  In addition, many staff members contribute to our communities by giving generously to the United Way and the San Juan Medical Foundation, participating in the Day of Caring, the Cancer Walk-A-Thon and other activities.

Behind the scenes, hospital leaders and administrators were ensuring that these same values were incorporated in tangible ways for employees as well. What has emerged from this input is an organization that recognizes people as the heart of safe high-quality healthcare.

Healing takes teamwork. Today, San Juan Regional Medical Center is staffed by more than 1,800 employees.  Generous benefits, on-site childcare, a staff gym and attention to employee health through the Full Engagement Training program are now hallmarks of the employee experience at San Juan Regional Medical Center. Employees are instrumental in every aspect of hospital management and patient care.  They continue to be important voices in safe quality improvement initiative embraced by San Juan Regional Medical Center.  Team accountability is a valued expectation of all employees.

As part of our healing team, our hospital volunteers share their creative vitality giving thousands of hours of service in support of the healing experience each year.  In addition to volunteering their time and talents, they also assist numerous employees and community members annually with scholarship money.

Our medical staff of physicians continue to demonstrate the expertise, commitment and dedication to patient care that drove Drs. Sammons and Smith nearly a century ago.

With each decade since 1910, San Juan Regional Medical Center leaders, staff, physicians and volunteers have honored the sacred trust of Doctors Sammons and Smith. Every milestone in the hospital’s history has been possible because of those values that allowed our leaders to innovate and lead with passion, and allowed our staff, physicians and volunteers to provide high-quality, personalized health care to the region.

Like the rivers of San Juan County, we bend and change to meet the needs of those we serve.  Our people, our programs, our values flow through us like a living legacy rolling on into the future. 

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