Wellstar unveils mural featuring history of the LaGrange hospital

Published 9:00 am Friday, June 28, 2024

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There was a crowd on the second floor of WellStar West Georgia Medical Center on Wednesday, all of whom were staring at a wall. 

This particular wall, however, is unique.

WellStar unveiled its new history wall to a group of clinicians, politicians, volunteers and philanthropists. The mural is 20 feet by 8 feet and encompasses a timeline of the LaGrange hospital and the people who have filled its halls.

Coleman Foss, WWGMC president, spoke at the unveiling about the people and events that have made the hospital what it is today. 

Prior to the 20th century, the first hospitals in Troup County were run by the Methodist and Baptist churches to treat Union and Confederate soldiers. 

However, the first official hospital was the LaGrange Sanitorium, which opened in the city’s downtown in 1902 by a local Pharmacist, Dr. Henry R. Slack. Due to the expense, the Sanatorium largely served those who could afford the cost. By 1914 the Sanatorium had closed to make space for a hotel. 

Fast forward a couple of years and the hotel was reconverted, this time as a public Hospital, called Dunson Hospital. Perhaps the biggest change was the expansion of services to all of Troup County through a newly built facility, City-County Hospital on Vernon Road in 1937. Since then a hospital has been in that location. 

Over the years the hospital has seen expansions and changes of ownership, most recently to WellStar. What is now, WellStar West Georgia Medical Center has an entire complex to house its services, from pediatrics to oncology, as well as outpatient clinics across the county. The wall encompasses much of this history.

“Dr. Ina Callaway which the Callaway Cancer Center was named after…If you don’t know the story, he had a daughter who had cancer. He went off and became I think one of the first board-certified oncologists in America, hoping that he could cure his daughter,” Foss said.

Another space is reserved for longtime surgeon B.T. Wood. Wood was the first and only black surgeon in Troup County, according to Copeland. He worked at the hospital for 43 years, starting in 1927. 

There is also a picture of the late mayor, Willie T. Edmondson, who served as an ICU nurse at the facility early in his career. 

The last panel of the wall wraps around a corner and is filled with masked individuals.

“If you don’t remember we had a worldwide pandemic,” said Foss as the crowd laughed knowingly. “There’s probably several of our current employees over there [on the panel].

The wall tells part of the long healthcare history and unofficial ends in the present day. However, the masterminds behind the wall hope for future workers to continue the timeline down the hallway. 

“We’re excited about the future like I said, but we certainly want to honor and celebrate all of these pioneers who were so instrumental,” Foss said.