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Dallas' Scottish Rite Hospital celebrates 100 years of improving orthopedics for children

Doctors are operating on a child with polio in a hospital operating room
Scottish Rite For Children
Decades ago, treatment for children with polio often involved various methods designed to straighten and correct afflicted muscles and limbs.

CEO Bob Walker talks with KERA's Justin Martin about how Scottish Rite for Children has grown from 1921 to today.

A Dallas hospital that has helped hundreds of thousands of children in North Texas and around the world celebrated its 100th birthday last month.

KERA's Justin Martin talked to Bob Walker, CEO of Scottish Rite for Children, about the hospital's history and future plans.

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.


On how the hospital started:

A group of masons partnered with the first orthopedic surgeon in Dallas, his name being W.B. Carrell, and they realized there was a need for a facility to take care of children with polio.

Dr. Carrell came to Dallas after World War I and opened up his office at Welborn and Maple, where we are today, and started initially seeing patients free of charge in his office with the support of the Masonic community.

Shortly after that, the need was recognized for an inpatient facility. So in 1921 the hospital was built primarily for the purpose of treating children with polio.

Black and white photo of a two-story building in Dallas that treated children with polio.
Scottish Rite For Children
On Nov. 15, 1923, after two years of treating patients in a single family home, Dr. W.B. Carrell and the other founders of Scottish Rite moved into a new facility -- a red brick building with two, 15-bed inpatient wards. Patients with polio would receive treatment at local hospitals until they were no longer contagious, and then transfer to what was known as Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children for recovery and rehabilitation through therapy, bracing and surgery. Dr. Carrell was the first chief of staff, overseeing the medical program, training and operations.

On shifting from polio to orthopedic conditions:

Polio required a lot of orthopedic interventions. So if you go back from 1921, you go through the '20s, '30s and '40s. And predominantly what we saw was polio. However, we did see some other conditions, but by far the majority were polio.

Then in the '50s, the Salk and Sabin vaccine was discovered, which was a huge thing. And fortunately, it pretty much eradicated polio in this country and started around the world. After that happened, it was a significant event for the hospital.

But because polio required a lot of orthopedic intervention, the natural growth was to become a pediatric orthopedic hospital.

Scottish Rite For Children
Scottish Rite for Children has revolutionized the treatment of pediatric orthopedic conditions. In this photo from the 1980s, Assistant Chief of Staff Dr. John Birch begins performing the Ilizarov procedure, originally developed by a Russian surgeon, to lengthen and straighten bones of patients

On their first ever capital campaign to raise $100 million:

We felt in order to celebrate our 100 years, that a great goal to have is to raise $100 million, and those funds would be used in a variety of different ways.

You know, we have a lot of plans for renovation for this facility. We've certainly done some along the way. But there are so many things that we really need to upgrade.

We're in the middle of upgrading our surgical suites and a number of our clinical areas. And so part of these funds that we will raise would be for those purposes.

Volunteers sewing in a room
Scottish Rite For Children
Volunteers have been critical in helping Scottish Rite. Every year, they don their signature red coats and work more than 100,000 hours, pop over two tons of popcorn and support 60 departments.

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.