(Good Things Utah) Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is celebrating a major milestone – its 100th birthday – with leaders marking a century of pediatric care excellence and service to children throughout the Intermountain West by renewing their Primary Promise to keep the “Child First and Always.” 

“We’ve achieved many remarkable milestones during our first 100 years,” said Dustin Lipson, Primary Children’s Hospital administrator. “We’ll continue working to improve the health of children, strengthen our quality of care, address emerging health needs, and extend our expertise to those who need us most in the next century. What an exciting future ahead for Primary Children’s and the children and families we are fortunate to serve.”  

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital has grown from an act of compassion for one child, to delivering premier pediatric care to 100,000 children a year, regardless of their ability to pay.  

It launched in a home near Temple Square and soared into a multi-campus care network spanning 400,000 square miles across the Intermountain West. Its services have grown from orthopedics and chronic disease care to treating the most complex child injuries and illnesses, from organ transplants to in-womb and open fetal surgeries with University of Utah Health. 

“Primary Children’s Hospital saved not only my life as a child, but my child’s life more than once,” Utah mother Sara Mainor said. “The specialists may help one child at a time, but it’s so much more than that. Through their expertise, they help entire families, and the communities those families are part of — and in the case of me and Nellie, who has a one-in-a-million disease, generations of children to come.”  

Mainor recalls being at Primary Children’s as a child, when doctors successfully removed a tumor from her brain. Her 12-year-old daughter, Nellie, recently received a kidney transplant after years of daily dialysis treatments – all while leading several fundraisers to help her fellow patients.  

“Primary Children’s nurses and doctors have become like a second family to me,” said Nellie, who at age 6 was diagnosed with the rare dense deposit disease. “I love the people who helped me, and I’m glad they have done the same for thousands of other kids. Happy birthday, Primary Children’s!” 

Hospital Built for Children, By Children  

Primary Children’s Hospital was inspired by Louie B. Felt and May Anderson, officers of the Primary Association, the children’s program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who were touched by the sight of a child on crutches struggling along a city street. 

Realizing the need for special medical help for children, the Primary Association sponsored the treatment of 72 children in a children’s ward created at LDS Hospital in 1911. 

In 1922, the Primary Association opened the first Primary Children’s Hospital at 40 W. North Temple, across from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. The hospital mainly served children with orthopedic and chronic diseases, and who needed convalescent care following surgeries at LDS Hospital, which resulted in an average six-month stay. 

Primary Children’s Hospital was made possible by philanthropy, including Pennies by the Inch, in which Latter-day Saint Primary children donated pennies each birthday, and annual Penny Parades held in hundreds of Intermountain area towns and farming districts. 

When the hospital needed an update in 1938, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints President Heber J. Grant responded. Local business leaders had given him 1,000 silver dollars for his 82nd birthday. He donated the coins for the hospital’s construction, and each silver dollar was made into a paperweight and sold for $100. 

After World War II, the Primary Association launched “Dimes for Bricks,” and invited residents to contribute 10 cents to purchase one red brick for the new hospital.  

In 1952, the new 70-bed Primary Children’s Hospital opened at 320 12th Avenue in Salt Lake City. Half the $1.25 million cost was paid through these fundraisers, making Primary Children’s in large part the hospital built for children, by children. 

Intermountain Healthcare Brings New Opportunities  

In 1975, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created the independent, nonprofit corporation Intermountain Healthcare, through which its hospital holdings, including Primary Children’s, were gifted to the community.  

In exchange, the Church charged Intermountain to become a “model health system,” providing affordable, accessible, and extraordinary care.  

Primary Children’s has heeded the call. Its expertise in the 1960s had been advancing to include acute care, surgeries, a pharmacy, outpatient clinic, medical library, and University of Utah pediatric resident rotations.  

In 1977, the hospital became the teaching hospital for the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, paving the way for research, innovation, additional pediatric specialties and life-saving technologies to help children survive and thrive.  

In 1990, Primary Children’s moved to its current 289-bed facility on the University of Utah campus next to the School of Medicine. The Primary Children’s Eccles Outpatient Services Building opened in 2014 to accommodate patients’ growing needs. 

Into the Next 100 Years: A Primary Promise to the Child First and Always  

Today, Primary Children’s provides more than 60 medical and surgical pediatric specialties with more than 800 physicians and 3,000 caregivers. It provided $14 million in charitable dollars to cover 11,867 patient visits in 2020 alone.  

Its specialty care now is available in clinic locations, partner community hospitals, and via pediatric telehealth in Utah, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, and Montana locations, bringing expert pediatric care to children closer to home.  

Hospital inpatients receive music, dance, and art therapy, and enjoy toys, crafts and games in a spacious Forever Young Zone and Sophie’s Place, where they can heal through the power of expression and play.   

Visits from world-renown actors, artists, athletes, and leaders, including President George H. W. Bush, Jennifer Garner, Farah Fawcett, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Mouse, Robert Redford, the Dalai Lama, Star Wars’ BB-8, and Sabrina Carpenter, continue to cheer patients during their hospital stay.  

Families can find rest and refreshment in two in-hospital Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. 

The new Grant Scott Bonham Fetal Center in the hospital’s new north tower provides multi-specialty fetal care and surgeries to unborn children and their mothers and families in close partnership with University of Utah Health.  

The most fragile infants are cared for in a state-of-the art newborn intensive care unit. Later this year, children with cancer will receive expert care in upgraded healing spaces and infusion areas more accommodating to childhood and family needs.   

Primary Children’s in 2020 began building a second hospital campus in Lehi, Utah, on the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Campus to address growing needs in the area in the decades to come. The hospital will feature five floors, 66 beds, and a three-story medical office building, with a combined 486,000 square feet. It is expected to open in 2024.  

The Miller Family Campus is part Intermountain Healthcare’s “Primary Promise” vision to create the nation’s model health system for children – just as its founders intended. 

“As a pediatric critical care physician who trained at Primary Children’s Hospital, I’ve seen firsthand the amazing care provided to each child,” said Marc Harrison, MD, president and chief executive officer of Intermountain Healthcare. “I’m proud to have been part of Primary Children’s first 100 years and look forward to the next century of advancements that will help children live healthier lives.” 

Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital Milestones 

1922 – First Primary Children’s opens in a converted house across from Temple Square 

1924 – Most commonly treated illnesses are infantile paralysis, osteomyelitis, and tonsils; patients traveled to the hospital from six western states and Canada 

1952 – Primary Children’s moves to a 70-bed facility on 12th Avenue in Salt Lake City 

1968 – Primary Children’s begins offering pediatric psychiatric services 

1971 – First Festival of Trees raises $47,000 for charity care 

1977 – Primary Children’s becomes the teaching hospital for the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics  

1979 – Air transport (soon to be named Life Flight) begins, bringing 232 children across 20,000 miles to Primary Children’s in its first year   

1982 – Newborn ICU is a test site for the high-frequency jet ventilator, which proved successful in saving tiny premature babies 

1984 – Cardiac balloon pumping for children pioneered at Primary Children’s 

1991 – “Hold On To Dear Life” injury prevention program begins, credited boosting kids’ car seat and seat belt usage by 17 percent the first year  

1991 – President George H. W. Bush and Louis Sullivan, MD, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, visit Primary Children’s Hospital  

1996 – Primary Children’s successfully separates conjoined twins from Honduras 

1996 – Primary Children’s completes first liver transplant 

1997 – Utah’s first living, related-donor liver transplant performed on 9-month-old girl at Primary Children’s 

1999 – Primary Children’s becomes the first children’s hospital in the country, and the first hospital in Utah, to adopt digital medical imaging 

2002 – Hospital achieves the highest-level certification Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, the only one in a five-state region 

2007 – First antibody therapy administered in the Primary Children’s cancer center 

2014 – Eccles Outpatient Services Building opens 

2015 – First Car-T therapy administered at Primary Children’s 

2017 – Primary Children’s ranked in all 10 Best Children’s Hospitals specialties measured by U.S. News and World Report 

2019 – Primary Children’s Center for Personalized Medicine announced  

2020 – Construction begins on a second Primary Children’s in Lehi on the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Campus 

2021 – First pediatric ECMO transport performed  

2021 – First open fetal surgery performed with University of Utah Health  2024 – Second Primary Children’s hospital to open on the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Campus in Lehi 


For more information, go to www.IntermountainHealthcare.org/Primary-Childrens.


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