Two Lovell hospitals - 100 years of caring - Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

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Two Lovell hospitals - 100 years of caring

Soldiers were cared for at Lovell Hospital at Ft. Sheridan, Ill. during World War I.

Soldiers were cared for at Lovell Hospital at Ft. Sheridan during World War I. The hospital was named after the Army's first surgeon general, Joseph Lovell.

By Julie Ewart
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
A decade before astronaut James A. Lovell was even born, World War I-era soldiers and veterans were getting care at a hospital called Lovell at Fort Sheridan, then an active Army base and just a short drive south from the present-day Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, in North Chicago, Ill.  

“This year’s special Veterans Day focus on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I got us to hone in on this fascinating coincidence, and to learn about the vital national role that military hospitals in Lake County, Ill. played in caring for service members and veterans a century ago,” said Dr. Robert Buckley, director of the Lovell FHCC. Lovell FHCC was established in 2010 as the nation’s first, fully-integrated medical center to treat veterans, service members and their families, supporting health care missions of both the Department of  Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.   

With support from the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, Ill. as well as the Navy’s History and Heritage Command, Lovell FHCC’s communications staff compiled World War I-era facts, stories and photos into a presentation that Buckley provided at community events around Veterans Day and after. The site of the former North Chicago VA Medical Center, now Lovell FHCC, was a farm owned by the Downey family until the hospital’s initial construction there in 1926, but hospitals at both Fort Sheridan and Naval Station Great Lakes provided critical care during World War I. The hospital at Great Lakes was the first to treat Spanish Influenza in 1918.

The first reported cases of the deadly Spanish Influenza were seen at then Naval Training Center Great Lakes in 1918.

Established in 1918, Lovell General Hospital expanded Fort Sheridan’s medical operations to meet the growing medical needs of injured troops returning from duty in Europe during World War I, then known as the Great War. It was named for Joseph Lovell, the Army’s first surgeon general (1818-1836).  

“One-hundred years ago, Lovell General Hospital was the largest military hospital in the U.S. treating wounded and convalescent soldiers,” Buckley said. “More than 60,000 patients received care there, including some civilians suffering from the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918, which caused far more deaths worldwide than World War I.” 

“The hospital at Great Lakes actually had the first reported cases of the Spanish Flu in the Midwest, according to a Sept. 16, 1918 Chicago Daily Tribune article, and thousands of patients with the flu – both military and civilian – were treated there,” Buckley added.

The composer of the National Anthem, John Phillips Sousa, was band director at Naval Station Great Lakes.

At the outbreak of World War I, the famous composer John Phillips Sousa was a lieutenant leading the Naval Reserve Band at Naval Station Great Lakes.

Then called Naval Training Center Great Lakes, the base saw tremendous growth during World War I. At the beginning of 1917, it boasted 39 permanent brick buildings and about 1,500 sailors. By the time peace was declared in November, 1918, the base had 45,000 sailors training in 776 buildings. Throughout the war, more than 125,000 sailors were trained at the station. 

With its main hospital in North Chicago and outpatient clinics in Evanston, McHenry and Kenosha, Wis., Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center integrated the former North Chicago VA Medical Center with the former Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes in 2010. It is named for former astronaut retired Navy Capt. James A. Lovell, veteran of four NASA missions (including Apollo 8 and 13) and local resident.

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