Fifty-two years ago today, St. Claire Regional Medical Center opened its doors and soon became one of the most valuable local resources the people of Northeastern Kentucky had ever had access to. Before its creation, residents had to travel upwards of 100 miles to receive sufficient healthcare. Upon its completion, residents had access to amazing medicine, close to home.
While the region had lacked an adequate healthcare facility for many years, it did not lack an adequate physician. Dr. Claire Louise Caudill set up a practice in Morehead in 1948 alongside her nurse and longtime friend, Susie Halbleib. The pair stayed quite busy making home visits to patients and delivering babies, but Caudill quickly realized she was just one provider amongst a few, in a region that desperately needed more.
"It wasn’t going to be easy, but we were young and knew we could do it," Halbleib said. "The people here needed a hospital."
Caudill and Halbleib sat out on a mission to figure out how to put their dream into motion and spent countless hours raising money and researching opportunities. After expending nearly all of their resources, they were able to secure around $250,000 in funding for the project, but they knew it just wasn’t quite enough. Caudill soon came to the realization that she needed to collaborate with an organization to make her dreams come to fruition, and was eventually led to the Sisters of Notre Dame (SND). The sisters not only supplied the remaining funds to complete the project, but offered to staff the hospital as well.
"(The Sisters of Notre Dame) were unknown at the time in terms of who the Catholic Church was," Sister Marla Monahan, former provincial of SND, said. "It took a while for the people of Morehead and the surrounding areas to get to know who we were."
But their impact since has been phenomenal.
“You knew that (the sisters) had the mission to make this hospital a good hospital,” Ewell Scott, retired SCR MD, said. “They worked hard at it.”
When it first opened, the hospital had 41 beds, 42 employees and six physicians. It was soon evident that the hospital had become a staple in the region, and the need for its services became greater than ever. Its first expansion came nearly 10 years later in 1972, when the beds, doctors and employees more than doubled. Numerous expansions later, SCR now boasts 159 beds, employs nearly 1,200 staff members and over 100 physicians representing 31 medical specialties, and serves a population greater than 160,000.
“We continue to grow and continue our focus on the needs of the region, just as we will continue to do for years to come,”
Mark J. Neff, SCR President/CEO, said. While a lot has changed in 52 years, one thing remains the same. Just as Caudill, Halbleib and the Sisters of Notre Dame envisioned, St. Claire Regional remains dedicated to proclaiming God’s goodness through a healing ministry to the people of Eastern Kentucky. Former SCR Vice President Kimberly D. Williams, MD, said it best, “St. Claire Regional is, and has always been, about the patients.”