Innovation was in Cleveland Clinic’s DNA long before it was established in 1921. Co-founder George W. Crile, MD, was already a leading surgeon in the United States in 1906, when he performed a pioneering human-to-human blood transfusion. He would help create the American College of Surgeons in 1913 and was recognized as the father of physiological surgery, specializing in surgical shock.
Born in Ohio during the Civil War, Dr. Crile treated wounded soldiers on the ground in France during World War I. Dr. Crile and the partners in his Cleveland medical practice, Frank E. Bunts, MD, and William E. Lower, MD, were among the first American military personnel to land in France. They followed the practice of Army doctors to “act as a unit” to pool their different skills and effectively treat soldiers’ often-ghastly wounds.
As Dr. Crile recalled, Cleveland Clinic founders’ military experience “showed them the value of research carried out alongside patient care—how such research was more rapidly responsive to patient needs and could be more quickly used in treatment.”
Back in Cleveland, and with a new partner, internist John Phillips, MD, the group of doctors made innovative research a cornerstone of their next venture. Their Clinic Building on E. 93rd Street at Euclid Avenue was designed with space dedicated to research. The founders pledged to spend at least one-fourth of their net income on research to fund further medical innovations, as well as infrastructure improvements, treatment for indigent patients and other needs. It was a staggering amount to fund research at any medical institution, and that percentage only increased in the years to come.