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Studer Family Children's Hospital Dedicated

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Sr. Carol Keehan, along with Bubba Watson and his wife, Angie, and Sacred Heart patients cut the ribbon at the new facility.

Fifty years to the day that the first Children’s Hospital opened in Pensacola, a new incarnation was dedicated nearby on the Ascension/Sacred Heart campus on Monday.

“There are not many days that you get to, in your life, where dreams this big are realized,” said Dr. Robert Patterson, Medical Director of the old Children’s Hospital, and serving in the same capacity for the new Studer Family Children’s Hospital.

“Since I came here, we’ve been dedicated to the sole mission that the care that we provide here would be the same care that we would provide our on child,” Patterson said.

Built at a cost of $85 million over almost three years, the four-story, 152,000 square-foot hospital has 126 beds that serve a neo-natal intensive care unit; medical-surgical, and observation. Also featured are pediatric imaging, pharmacy, rehabilitation, outpatient lab services and more family-inclusive amenities – such as an in-hospital Ronald McDonald House.

“It has been designed by a combination of administrators, architects, nurses, physicians and others utilizing the best technology, the best design, and the best state-of-the-art science to provide care,” Patterson said.

Representing the legion of donors to the project were businessman Quint Studer and pro golfer Bubba Watson. Studer told the gathering it’s somewhat unusual to have a children’s hospital in a community the size of Pensacola. According to demographics and population, some say a children’s hospital shouldn’t have existed in Pensacola in 1969 – or now. 

Credit Sacred Heart Hospital
Sacred Heart Hospital
Sr. Carol Keehan, the first supervisor of Children’s Hospital, looking over plans for the first children’s hospital at Sacred Heart.

“Of course if you have a child, you’re not worried about analytics; you’re worried about ‘is my child get the best care?’” Studer said. “I’ve always said you can tell the values of a community on how they treat those who sometimes can’t take care of themselves. What shows here is, even though we might have a small population, we have an [awfully] big heart.”

For Watson – whose name adorns the street next to the new hospital as Bubba Watson Drive – it’s personal.

“This is something that means a lot to me,” said an emotional Watson. “My business, my job is one thing – hitting the golf ball – but this is more important. This is my community.”

Also on hand was Tom VanOsdol, President and CEO of Ascension Florida based in Jacksonville. He expressed thanks for what he calls a “new environment of clinical excellence and human caring” for children and families throughout Pensacola and northwest Florida.

“I want to say thank you to the immensely talented, and gifted, and devoted, and compassionate physicians and nurses and therapists, and caregivers and associates who serve here,” said VanOsdol. “Who God uses every single day as His instruments of love and healing.”

At $85 million, the new hospital is the largest single investment by Sacred Heart in its history, dating back to 1915. That includes the move to its current 9th Avenue locale, and expanding from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Apalachicola.

“Many of you have heard this tag line, but it’s truer here today than any other place I’ve ever seen; that that is ‘You’ve come a long way, baby,’” said Sister Carol Keehan, Children’s Hospital’s first nursing director a half-century ago. Today, she’s president of the Catholic Health Association.

“Every child here is as important as any child in the entire world; Pensacola said that 50 years ago, and you have said it again today in spades,” Keehan said. “There are children and families who will never meet you; but who owe you a great deal.”

Bishop William Wack — who leads the Pensacola-Tallahassee Catholic Diocese — delivered the blessing of the new facility.

“The Father of Mercies and God of all Consolations – who strengthens us through is Son and the Holy Spirit – showers his love and blessings in a particular way,” intoned Wack. “On those who are in distress; on the sick, and those who assist and minister to the sick in any way.”

The Studer Family Children’s Hospital has a medical staff of 120 board-certified physicians across 30 pediatric specialties; 245 nurses among the nearly 400 associates, plus more than 70 volunteers. More information is at www.studerfamiliychildrenshospital.com.