It started with a vision—a vision to remember a beloved Indiana icon with a lasting legacy in his name.
In 1917, an Indianapolis doctor suggested a children’s hospital be built as a memorial for Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley. The idea caught on: a hospital with national recognition would serve the children of Indiana and be a permanent celebration of Riley.
Since its opening in 1924, Riley at IU Health has carried on that vision by offering world-class healthcare to children throughout Indiana. The state’s first and only comprehensive pediatric system gives children access to the best and brightest physicians, healthcare providers and researchers.
Here are the milestones that made it all possible.
The Riley Memorial Committee joins with Indiana University and the Indiana Child Welfare Association to submit a bill in February 1921 to the State Legislature requesting funds for building costs, equipment, and maintenance for the hospital.
The Riley Memorial Hospital bill passes in March and is signed by Governor Warren T. McCray.
Laying the Foundation
The Riley Memorial Association, now the Riley Children's Foundation, is formally incorporated.
Civic leaders and public officials gather for a groundbreaking ceremony on the hospital on July 11.
At an Oct. 7 cornerstone laying ceremony, former U.S. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall gave the principal address. A bronze cornerstone box was filled with names of school children and clubs and organizations from around the state inscribed on parchment and other commemorative items. President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding donated a bronze trowel for the actual laying of the cornerstone.
Cheer Guild Takes Shape
The Junior League expands the Occupational Therapy Department at Riley, adding the third full-time Occupational Therapist to work with orthopedic patients.
Riley Hospital for Children’s Occupational Therapy Department is launched in 1924 as the first service project of the Junior League of Indianapolis. Through the Junior League Trust Fund, established in 1929, more than $550,000 has been and continues to be distributed as grants by the League to organizations serving children with disabilities.
Rotary Building Opens
The Rotary Building, dedicated Nov. 15, opens as a children’s convalescent center. As funds were being raised to build the Riley Hospital, members of Indiana’s Rotary Clubs pledged $250,000 for the construction of a space for children to live, attend school and receive care.
They raised $276,000 at a time when the Great Depression was nearing its height. IU President William Lowe Bryan, himself a Rotarian, called the facility “a monument to the courage of our people—a courage which no hard times can destroy.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits the hospital to see the hydro-therapy pool during a day-long visit to Indianapolis where he was welcomed by a downtown parade.
Learn more about the bittersweet reason the president visited Riley.
Impact of the War
Winifred Conrick Kahmann, Director of Riley Hospital’s Occupational Therapy Department, serves as Chief of the Occupational Therapy Branch of the Office of the Surgeon General, United States Army from 1943 to 1946.
In that role, Kahmann helps recruit and train about 600 to become occupational therapists and also has charge of 82 hospitals across the country.
Research Building Opens
The Riley Research Building opens. The building, with its laboratories and equipment capabilities, sets the groundwork for a strong research program.
The hospital is able to attract new, highly skilled pediatric specialists and subspecialists, dramatically increasing the number of faculty in the Department of Pediatrics during chairman Dr. Lyman Meiks’ tenure from 1951 to 1966.
Indiana’s first pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory opens at Riley.
Camp Riley for Physically Handicapped Children (later renamed Camp Riley) opens for campers at Bradford Woods.
Every summer, Camp Riley welcomes approximately 200 children between the ages of 8 and 18 from throughout Indiana and several other states at several camp sessions.
The annual summer camp program lets children with physical disabilities experience life without limits, and adventures that help them build confidence and friendships.
Indiana’s first pediatric open heart procedure is performed at Riley.
Riley physicians perform the first percutaneous cardiac catheterization (a minimally invasive diagnostic and treatment procedure) in children.
A Heart First
James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Hospital for Children becomes the first hospital in Indiana—and one of the first in the nation—to utilize echocardiography to diagnose congenital heart defects.
An Indiana First
Riley physicians perform the first staged Fontan procedure in Indiana. The surgery keeps oxygenated and deoxygenated blood from mixing in the heart.
James Whitcomb Riley Memorial Hospital for Children becomes the first hospital in Indiana to provide outpatient surgical care for children.
Led by Dr. Richard Miyamoto, physicians at Riley perform Indiana’s first pediatric cochlear implant procedure to correct deafness.
Indiana’s first ECMO procedure (a form of heart-lung bypass for critically ill infants and children) is performed at Riley.
Riley physicians perform Indiana’s first pediatric liver transplant.
Indiana’s first infant and newborn heart transplants are performed at Riley.
Cancer Center Opens
Indiana’s first and only pediatric cancer center, including the state’s only stem cell transplant unit, opens at Riley.
Indiana’s first pediatric cord blood transplant is performed at Riley.
James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children joins Indiana University Hospital and Methodist Hospital to form Clarian Health Partners, and now is referred to as Riley Hospital for Children.
Sleep Disorder Center Opens
The Riley Hospital for Children Sleep Disorders Center opens as the largest pediatric sleep lap in the world.
Heart Center Opens
Indiana’s only dedicated unit for children with heart defects, the Riley Hospital for Children Heart Center, opens.
Riley Hospital for Children is one of just 19 hospitals in the country selected to perform Phase I pediatric cancer research protocol.
In Phase I studies, drugs are tested to evaluate the dosages of the treatment, and how often the treatment can be administered.
Riley continues to offer the latest in treatment for all pediatric cancers as well as the only local access to a variety of investigational treatments.
Autism Center Opens
One of the nation’s three largest autism centers, the Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, opens at Riley.
The first intestinal and multi-organ transplants in Indiana are performed at Riley.
Riley Hospital for Children is the first hospital in the Eastern United States and only one of two in the U.S. to receive special government permission to use and implant the Berlin Heart, a ventricular assist device to treat complex cardiac problems.
Riley surgeons first use Repiphysis, a prosthetic implanted in an arm or leg.
Riley Hospital for Children is the first hospital in Indiana to perform a pulmonary autograft mitral valve replacement, a revolutionary procedure to replace the mitral valve.
Resource Center Opens
The Frank and Marian Snyder Family Resource Center opens at Riley, featuring a library, chapel, Family Education Center and an in-hospital Ronald McDonald House.
The Edward A. Block Family Library features the original lobby of the hospital and offers patients and families access to computers, gaming systems, books, and DVDs, as well as medical and support information.
The Ronald McDonald House at Riley was the first of its kind in the nation. It offers lodging, food and relaxation to patients and families. The Riley Chapel offers a spiritual component for families and staff to use.
Riley Hospital for Children launches a telemedicine program, allowing Riley physicians to consult with physicians and patients from across the state.
Safety Store Opens
The Safety Store at Riley Hospital for Children opens as the first of its kind in the nation to provide families of all children, including children with special needs, with low-cost safety products and injury prevention education.
Riley Hospital for Children is the first hospital in Indiana, and among a few hospitals in the nation, to use the Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib, a curved metal rod used to stabilize the spine and ribs in children with chest abnormalities.
The Riley Children’s Foundation receives a $10 million gift from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation to establish a world-class pediatric diabetes treatment and research program.
Riley Hospital for Children earns Level I Trauma verification, making it one of 12 hospitals in the nation with this designation.
Global Partnership ...
Riley Hospital for Children formalizes its longstanding relationship with the Capital Institute of Pediatrics of Beijing, China by becoming international sister hospitals.
... and Global Reach
The new Riley Mother and Baby Hospital of Kenya opens in Eldoret, Kenya.
Funded entirely by donations, the $2.5 million, 75,000 square foot hospital has seen dramatic growth since its opening. An initial 7,000 annual deliveries and 35 babies daily in the newborn intensive care unit has grown to 20,000 annual deliveries and more than 100 babies in the NICU each day. All care is provided by Kenyan physicians, nurses and other staff.
The hospital developed out of a partnership that began in 1989 between the IU School of Medicine and Moi University School of Medicine in Kenya. Dr. James Lemons initiated the idea for the hospital in 1994, and with his wife, Pam, oversaw fundraising during the next 15 years. His vision was for a self-sustaining hospital excelling in clinical care, training and research while providing a safe haven for women and children of western Kenya—a vision the hospital lives by today.
Riley Hospital establishes a Family Advisory Council to inform program and policy decisions to improve the care for patients and families. The council is now part of the Pediatric Patient and Family Advisory Council.
A New Name
Riley Hospital for Children is renamed Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health as Clarian Health Partners is rebranded as Indiana University Health.
Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health is ranked in 10 out of 10 specialties by U.S. News & World Report.
Since then, Riley has consistently ranked as the only nationally ranked children's hospital in Indiana. Riley is ranked in 8 out of 10 pediatric specialties for 2018-2019.
Change The Play Launches
Riley at IU Health partners with Andrew Luck, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, to create Change the Play, a program to encourage and challenge kids to make better choices about health, nutrition and exercise.
Designed for kids age 5 to 13, Change the Play has grown to include a multitude of ways to learn healthy habits, including an 8-week Challenge in both schools and home, a monthly Kids Club, as well as Kids Camps offered throughout the summer across Indiana.
Across the State
Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health joins primary care pediatricians across the state to launch Riley Physicians, a statewide network of care providers.
The Riley Heart Center opens a pediatric CVICU, a specialized environment devoted to patients with both congenital and acquired heart disease. It is the only pediatric CVICU in the state of Indiana, and dedicated team members collaborate to give each child the best care possible.
Child Life Zone Opens
The Child Life Zone, a doctor-free playroom inside Riley, opens. It's designed for patients and their families to play, learn, laugh and relax.
The Child Life Zone features tables for hockey, foosball and pool, a video recording studio, craft kitchen, customized ambulance to explore medical play, a Microsoft Video Game wall as well as an infant and toddler play area. Built through support from Teammates for Kids Foundation, our Child Life Zone is one of the nation’s largest hospital playrooms.
Ongoing research at the Wells Center for Pediatric Research has focused on infectious disease and global health research discoveries related to malaria and HIV.
In developmental cardiology, research revealed for the first time how wiring for the sympathetic nervous system (known as the “fight or flight” system) gets installed into a still-developing newborn heart and how that can play a role in regulating cardiac function.
Researchers in the asthma and allergic diseases group have included study of certain T-cells to learn how they function normally and why they go wrong in diseases such as asthma.
In an effort to reduce Indiana’s infant mortality rate, Riley Hospital for Children neonatologists and subspecialties align with Indiana University Health maternal fetal medicine physicians to create Riley Maternity and Newborn Health—a coordinated network to care for high-risk pregnancies.
Riley Children’s Health, Indiana’s only full service statewide pediatric health system, is formally announced.
An extension of Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, Riley Children’s Health offers complete, comprehensive pediatric care ranging from routine primary care checkups to the most complex acute care needs from highly skilled pediatric specialists.
The system connects patients with 200 primary care and 400 specialty care physicians in 19 communities across Indiana.