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History of John C. Lincoln Health Network

John C. Lincoln's hospitals, medical practices, health and human service programs and other services that comprise the Health Network had humble beginnings almost a century ago in the desert north of then Phoenix city limits.

history of john c lincoln health network
In the 1920s, nurse Marguerite Colley and other "Angels of the Desert" began a John C. Lincoln Health Network tradition by helping vulnerable Phoenix families.

In those days, people couldn't legally live in the city if they didn't have a house. So folks who spent their last dime getting from all points of the compass to the desert to recover from respiratory ailments — and who couldn't afford to buy a house — were shunted north to camp out in the desert and lie in the sun to recover.

Their plight was noted in 1927 by the local Presbyterian Church's Desert Mission, whose volunteers brought food and medical supplies. Organized by "Angels of the Desert," social worker Elizabeth Beatty and practical nurse Marguerite Colley, the Desert Mission activities took on a life of their own with establishment of a medical clinic, chapel and community building.

In 1931 Ohio entrepreneur and millionaire businessman John Cromwell Lincoln brought his young wife to Phoenix to recover from tuberculosis. It worked: she lived to be almost 103. But as she recovered, the Lincolns responded to their affinity for the Desert Mission's work with other respiratory patients. They contributed two-thirds of the money needed to buy the present North Mountain campus that stretches between Dunlap and Hatcher, and from Second to Third Street in Phoenix. In the late 1930s, an emergency station was added to the clinic.

World War II delayed plans to develop the clinic into a hospital, but when peace broke out, construction began. In 1951, the Desert Mission Convalescent Home, the Roy Brooks Outpatient Clinic and Emergency Station were licensed by the Arizona Department of Health as Desert Mission Convalescent Hospital. In 1954 John C. Lincoln caved to pressure from his wife and family, and allowed the hospital to be named in his honor as its primary financial benefactor. The following year, the Lincolns funded construction of a $200,000 surgical wing.

Over the years, the hospital's medical, human and social services continued to blossom with a number of significant "firsts." John C. Lincoln was the first Phoenix hospital with an air-evac medical transport service and an FAA-approved heliport for emergency helicopters. The hospital opened one of the Valley's first three Level I Trauma Centers, all launched within a few weeks of each other in 1979. The first class of Phoenix Fire Department paramedics was trained at John C. Lincoln Hospital. John C. Lincoln opened the state's first licensed Adult Day Health Care center and remains the first and only Valley hospital to operate a food bank and a host of other social and human services, the legacy of the Desert Mission Angels of the Desert.

In 1997, John C. Lincoln merged with Phoenix General Hospital to become John C. Lincoln Health Network. The Network expanded both its hospitals with state-of-the-art technology, built health centers in Northeast Phoenix and Anthem and began acquiring a network of primary and specialty physician practices that in 2012 became the nucleus for establishment of the John C. Lincoln Accountable Care Organization.