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Chris Armstrong (left) cuts a piece of cake for Amy Siggers, a registered nurse for the EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home. Also serving cake at the Thursday morning ceremony was Alexis Smalley. Baking the cake was a project of Fran Irmiter and his cafeteria crew at the hospital. It took over 10 hours to do it, and the big cake had such flavors as chocolate, pound cake, lemon bar and red velvet. The hospital grounds and small trees were fashioned from Rice Krispies and coated with edible food coloring. --Wayne Clark

EAMC Lanier hospital celebrates milestone birthday

VALLEY — EAMC-Lanier Hospital had a 70th anniversary birthday party Thursday morning in the hospital cafeteria. Administrator Greg Nichols told a large gathering of physicians, hospital staff and community leaders that it was the people of EAMC-Lanier who were responsible for providing high-quality, compassionate health care for the Valley and surrounding area for seven decades now.

“We have served this community for 70 years now, but we couldn’t have done it without our employees,” he said. “Some of you here this morning have been with us for 30 and 40 years. We have a great medical staff in our community. We are so grateful to have some wonderful physicians here in the Valley. The people of this area have been so supportive of us from the start. To get this hospital back in the 1940s, workers gave up a day’s wages to help raise the funds that were needed to build it.”

Nichols said that EAMC-Lanier’s first 70 years provides a solid historical marker for the future.

“We look forward to the future,” he said. “Our continuing goal is to provide high-quality, compassionate heath care.”

Eve Milner, director of nursing, thanked everyone for being there.

“Some of you here today were with the hospital when I came here 20 years ago. We have had a lot of changes since then, and we’ll have more improvements in the future. We will be opening an ambulatory surgery center, and we have an awesome staff for it. We are working on having a geriatric psych unit, something’s that’s truly needed. We have gone live with electronic records in the nursing home. These are completed medical records that are easy to read. We can this because of the leadership we have and a dedication to provide the best health care possible.”

Attendees were shown two short videos, one of the Nov. 30, 1949, grand opening ceremony that was shown in theaters at the time as a Movie Tone news item. While the first short video was in black and white, the second one was in color and dates to the 1990s.

The Movie Tone news reel noted that the new hospital in Langdale was the first one built with funding from the 1946 Hill-Burton Act, which sought to locate hospitals in small towns. Senator Lister Hill of Alabama was there to participate in the opening. Gov. Jim Folsom was also there.

The certification process for a new hospital began in 1942, and the momentum to build one picked up in the post-World War II era. Joseph L. Lanier Sr., then a vice president of West Point Manufacturing Company, led a fundraising effort to have private donations to the project. A site was selected for the hospital, and an architect was hired to produce a design. In 1948, George H. Lanier Sr., one of the hospital’s major boosters, died. He had been very generous in making personal contributions to the cause and encouraged corporate donations. In a unanimous vote, the hospital’s board of trustees voted to name the coming hospital in his memory.

Thousands of people were present at the dedication ceremony in November 1949, including the inaugural group of the WPMC Fifty-Year Club. The new hospital opened to the public on Jan. 18, 1950.

The second video began with an aerial view of the hospital shot from an airplane heading north above the Chattahoochee River. Shown in the video were candid shots of hospital personnel and physicians interacting with patients and visitors. Many in the crowd watching it recognized then-administrator, Bob Humphrey, along with doctors Fernando Sanchez, Arvind Kamath, David Fagan, Michael Grossman, Charles Casarona and Kris Reddy. Among those watching was Dr. Don Rao, who recruited many of them to EAMC-Lanier.

The color video listed a timeline of hospital additions. A nursing home was added in 1965, the Alabama-Georgia Hospital Auxiliary was founded in 1970, Medical Park added in 1974, the nursing home expanded in 1975, an east wing added in 1982.

“Pulse Beats” (about hospital activities) was published by James Strother in 1987, the hospital was saved from going under in 1991 (16 other Alabama hospitals were not so fortunate that year), a hospital foundation began in 1994, an outpatient wing added and Lanier Home Health began in 1997 and in 1998 Lanier Health Services was honored for being one of the foremost healthcare facilities for a service area its size.

The video concluded with the narrator stating that the local hospital was a healthcare facility “with a golden past and a brilliant future.”