Contact your Department of Public Health

Follow your Department of Public Health on DPH Facebook Page or DPH Twitter Site

Public Health Logo

Public Health in Saint Louis County
Over One Hundred Years of Public Health History

Saint Louis County Department of Health (1906 - present)

Saint Louis County Hospital (1931 - 1986)


The Health Department and County Hospital were merged in 1973 to form the Saint Louis County Department of Community Health and Medical Care, or DOCHMC. The name was simplified to Saint Louis County Department of Health or DOH in 1992.

Foundations: 1906 - 1936

1906 – The first part-time Health Officer for Saint Louis County was appointed - Dr. G. C. Eggers. He was succeeded by a Dr. O’Malley, who also served part-time.

1926 – The first full-time Health Commissioner for Saint Louis County, Dr. A. E. Walters - was appointed. The Health Department was also reorganized at this time. The first public health nurse employed by Saint Louis County, Anna L. Hartmann, was hired. Her salary was paid by the Tuberculosis Society. An Adult Tuberculosis Treatment Clinic was initiated in Lemay, the Health Department’s first TB service. The clinic later moved to Clayton.

1927 – A one million dollar bond issue was passed by St. Louis County voters on November 29,1927, for the construction of the first St. Louis County Hospital. A total of 67.4% of the vote was in favor. The site for the hospital was recommended by a Citizens Advisory Committee and was purchased for $100,000 by the County Court, the governing body at that time. The hospital was planned and designed by the architectural firm of Aegerter and Bailey. During the construction of the building (1927-1930), Dr Arthur Westrup of Webster Groves served as advisor and as temporary superintendent, without compensation.

1931 – St. Louis County Hospital (what was later called Building I) was dedicated and officially opened on July 20, 1931. Dr. Eugene A. Scharff served as first Superintendent of the hospital. He was an experienced hospital administrator who was recommended by an Advisory Committee composed of: Muriel Anscombe, Superintendent of Jewish Hospital; Dr. P. Dyer, Saint Louis County Medical Society; and Dr. Curtis Lohr, Saint Louis City Hospital Commissioner.

1932-36 – Dr. Scharff died in 1932. During the next four years, there was a great deal of turmoil in both the Health Department and Hospital. Between 1931 and 1936, there were five changes in the position of Superintendent of County Hospital. Each change in the County Court led to wholesale changes in personnel at both the Hospital and Health Department.

Hospital policy in these first few years was to admit all cases requiring treatment, except dangerous communicable diseases and mental cases. The emphasis was on private, pay patients.

The Health Department budget in 1934 (including salaries, operating expenses and travel) was $29,200. Its staff included a health officer, four nurses, two milk inspectors, four sanitary inspectors, two laboratory technicians, two clerk-stenographers, and one social investigator. During the period, the Health Commissioner was, in effect, a State Officer, while the Hospital Superintendent was a County Officer.

1934 – The first known Child Health Conference in Saint Louis County was started by the Health Department in Lemay.

1934 (September) – The St. Louis County Grand Jury recommended that “the Saint Louis County Health Department and the St. Louis County Hospital be placed under one official to be known as the County Director of Health and Hospitals, who should have working under him a superintendent, not necessarily a doctor, but a man of high business qualifications to supervise the economics of the hospital.” This was something, evidently, whose time had not come.

1936 - 1960: A full-time, full-service Health Department

1936-37 – Major changes occurred at both the Hospital and Health Department during these years.

The Health Department was reorganized in 1936 under guidelines established in a survey the year before by the United States Public Health Service. This is considered the beginning of the full-time, full-service Health Department as we know it today. Dr. Theodore R. Meyer was appointed as Health Commissioner. Dr. Meyer came into the job with 15 years of public health administrative experience, and a degree of doctor of public health.

The same year, the Department’s first full-time Sanitary Engineer - Leonard M. Board - was hired, as well as the first full-time Director of Nurses, who it is believed was Rosemary Phillips. In 1937, the first full-time Laboratory Director for the Health Department - Howard E. Lind - was appointed. Lind was a bacteriologist who did both medical and environmental examinations. In 1936, the Health Department had nine professional staff, compared with 47 in 1941, 74 in 1944 and 119 in 1956.

In 1936 and 1937, there was also a reorganization of County Hospital. A Citizens Medical Advisory Committee was formed under the County Court to select a qualified Superintendent and Medical Director for the Hospital. Dr. Curtis H. Lohr, former St. Louis City Hospital Commissioner, was selected and appointed Hospital Commissioner. He also assumed duties as Medical Director. The Hospital’s medical and nursing staffs were reorganized, as were its X-ray, laboratory and ambulance services, and non-professional departments. Medical staff appointments were limited to members of the faculties of the St. Louis University and Washington University Medical Schools. The Hospital’s policy was changed to make care of the indigent County citizens the primary role of the institution.

During the early years of both the Health Department and Hospital, the work week was a 12-hour, six-day a week grind (or 72 hours a week).

1938 – Advisory Boards to both the Hospital and Health Department were established. Each was a separate group of citizens. They were merged into one Health and Hospital Advisory Board in 1951, after adoption of the County’s Home Rule Charter.

1938-39 – County Hospital received a “Fully Approved” rating from the American College of Surgeons. In 1939, it was accepted for membership in the Saint Louis Hospital Council, Missouri Hospital Association and American Hospital Association. It received national recognition for its marked improvements.

1938 (January) – A State Law went into effect abolishing the system of 25 local registrars of vital statistics in Saint Louis County. It “centralized the Vital Statistics for the registration of births and deaths for Saint Louis County in the office of the County Health Department.” The County Health Commissioner was designated as registrar.

1939 (February) – The first full-time Industrial Hygiene Engineer - Kenneth J. Wulfert - was added to the Health Department staff. In the fall of 1938, the agency had become the first County health department in the United States to make industrial hygiene an integral part of its activities. This is a program which went through various highs and lows in the ensuing years.

1940 – Health Commissioner Dr. T. R. Meyer was called to active duty by the U.S. Navy.

1941 – The Health Department at this time was housed in the bedrooms of four interns and the “dog house”, a frame shack on the County Hospital grounds. It was moved into “larger quarters” in December 1941, and again in July 1942.

1943 – Dr. Curtis Lohr, County Hospital Superintendent, volunteered for military service. Until his return in 1945, Mary Keith served as Superintendent and Dr. M. Spitz as Medical Director.

1940-43 – In the early 1940’s, construction began on the second unit of the Hospital under a Federal Lanham Act grant, which put ownership of that unit in Federal hands. The second unit (later called Building II) was to be a health center which would provide facilities for both the Hospital and Health Department. It was built at a cost of around $750,000 for the building and equipment and opened in the fall of 1943. Building II remained under Federal Government ownership until 1948, when a $225,000 bond issue permitted the County to purchase the building and to construct corridors and ramps to connect the corresponding levels of Buildings I and II.

1943 – The first County-wide Rabies Control Program started.

1943 – The County Health Department’s Dental Health Service was initiated, after a survey by the Missouri Division of Health revealed a need for preventive dental health programs in Saint Louis County schools.

1946 – A tax rate of six cents per $100 valuation was approved by the State Legislature for County Hospital.

1946 – In order to meet the demands of a polio epidemic that summer, County Hospital established the first Polio Treatment Center in the St. Louis area. Forty beds in the Health Center Building (Building II) were assigned for this purpose.

1946 – A training course for laboratory technicians was established at County Hospital.

1940’s – During this period, the Health Department served as a Field Training Center for public health professionals from schools all over the country. This type of training continued for many years in one form or another.

1947 – The County Hospital house staff was reorganized and expanded on a specialty basis.

1947 – County Hospital qualified for membership in the Blue Cross plan.

1948 – A tax rate of four cents per $100 valuation approved for the Health Department.

1950 (October) – A Child Guidance Clinic was started by the Health Department for all children in the County up through age 16. A School Mental Health contract service was added in September 1951.

1950 – The first full-time Director of Dental Health was appointed at the Health Department.

1951 (February) – The first “permanent” health clinic operated by the Health Department outside of the County Health Center in Clayton opened in Kinloch. The initial project was a “mass blood-testing” program, with pre-natal and venereal disease clinics under consideration. (“Store-front” child health conference-type centers were in operation in Kinloch and Pine Lawn prior to this, however, in the 1940’s)

1951 – Saint Louis County’s Charter form of government went into effect, replacing the County Court with a Supervisor and seven Councilmen. The provisions for Civil Service in County Government went into effect in October 1952.

1952 (January) – The Visiting Nurse Association assumed responsibility for giving bedside nursing care in Saint Louis County. Previously, the Health Department’s nursing staff had provided this service, supported by funds from the Community Chest.

1953 – A training course for X-ray technicians was established at County Hospital.

1954 – The Health Department’s Environmental Health Services were reorganized and expanded. In the following years, such items as the first local nuisance ordinance, restaurant ordinance, milk control ordinance and septic tank construction ordinance were adopted. These laws, however, covered only the unincorporated areas of the County. A special contract program was established to provide similar services to municipalities who requested them. In 1967, health ordinances began to be adopted on a County-wide basis.

1958 – The Health Department’s new building made possible by the 1954-55 bond issues was completed. The Department gave up its offices at County Hospital and moved into its new address at 801 S. Brentwood Boulevard on October 15, 1958.

1959 (January) – The Health Department’s first permanent, on-going regional office was established - the North District Office at 123 Adams Street in Ferguson. Dr. Jane Cadbury was appointed to direct the office. It moved to 206 S. Florissant Road (about a block away) in 1966, being renamed the North County Health Center.

1960 – Dr. Leo A. Will retired as Chief of County Hospital’s Medical Staff. He had served in that capacity since 1936.

The modern public health era: 1960- present

1959-60 – An air pollution control program was begun at the Health Department.

1960 (September) – School Physical Examination Clinics were initiated by the Health Department. These clinics were later merged with the Child Health Conferences to form the Children's Clinics.

1962 – The third and final unit of County Hospital (Building III) was opened through County and Federal Hill-Burton monies. This was the major item of the 1954-55 County bond issues. The four-story addition was to provide for the care of “mental patients and chronically ill persons over 65 years of age”. The building was dedicated on July 7, 1962.

1963 (January) – The fluoridation of Saint Louis County’s drinking water supplies began, after a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the County ordinance requiring this.

1966 (December) – The Health Department’s Southwest County Health Center was opened at 9 Marshall Road in Valley Park.

1967 (January) – St. Louis County became the first in the State to convert from the old Coroner system to the Medical Examiner system. This office became part of DOCHMC when it was formed in 1973.

1967 (July) – New Animal Shelter opened on Hunter Avenue in Ladue.

1970 (Summer) – The North County Health Office opened at 205 N. Florissant Road in Ferguson. It housed the public health nurses and sanitarians who covered North County.

1971 – An affiliation agreement was negotiated between County Hospital and the St. Louis University and Washington University Schools of Medicine.

1972 (April) – The Health Department’s South County Health Center was opened at 1201 Lemay Ferry Road in Lemay. It moved to 177 Kingston in Lemay in January 1976 and to the new South County Health Center at 4580 S. Lindbergh in 1993.

1973 (October) – The County Hospital and County Health Department were merged to form the Saint Louis County Department of Community Health and Medical Care or DOCHMC, under the direction of Dr. William C. Banton II.

1970’s – Considerable remodeling and updating of the facilities at County Hospital occurred during this period, to meet the new and changing standards of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals. This included Coronary Intensive Care and Surgical Intensive Care Units, Obstetrics and Nursery, the Surgical Suite, the Medical and Surgical Outpatient Clinics, and the Emergency Room.

1975 (February) – Saint Louis County Ambulance Service was created within DOCHMC to provide emergency medical services to those areas of Saint Louis County not covered by municipal, fire district or private contractual emergency service.

1975 (March) – Second Animal Shelter opened on Seven Hills Drive to serve North Saint Louis County.

1977-79 – County Hospital was managed by Hospital Affiliates International of Nashville under a three-year contract.

1979 (August) – The Children’s Clinic at Rock Hill facility opened. This provided a “fixed site” for the various Children’s Clinics held throughout the County.

1980 (September) – the North Central County Health Center at 6150 Natural Bridge Road in Pine Lawn was opened.

1986 (June) – Inpatient care at St. Louis County Hospital was discontinued.

1988 (August) – Health Department administrative offices and some service were moved to the Meramec Tower building at 121 South Meramec in downtown Clayton.

1989-90 – These offices and services were moved into the department's former facility at 111 South Meramec in Clayton.

2011 (October) – South Animal Shelter on Hunter Avenue in Ladue closed permanently.

2011 (November) – North Animal Shelter on Seven Hills Drive in North Saint Louis County closed permanently.

2011 (November) – New Animal Shelter opened at 10521 Baur Boulevard in Olivette, with twice as much space for homeless animals and lost pets. The old shelters together held 77 cats and 119 dogs. The new shelter will hold 175 cats and 225 dogs.

2011 (June) – The John C. Murphy Health Center in Berkeley is closed to allow for the construction of the department’s new Health Campus.

2012 (August) – New Health Campus opened at 6121 North Hanley Road in Berkeley. This new building entirely replaced the old administrative health department offices at 111 South Meramec in Clayton. It has been built with many “green” features to make it more energy efficient.

2013 (April) – A drop-off collection site for hazardous household waste (HHW) is opened at 291 East Hoffmeister in south county. This permanent drop-off location replaces the department’s one-day collection events that had been held for years.