Moments in History
Health and Healing for Generations
Healing kids in body, mind and spirit was the heart of Father Flanagan’s philosophy. Medical care has always been part of Boys Town. From the early days of the infirmary staffed by nuns to our current Boys Town National Research Hospital, where leading-edge research and compassionate care help not only our Boys Town youth, but children and families nationwide, Boys Town’s commitment continues.
In 1917 when Father Flanagan created Boys Town, he had a medical component created. Children would come to him. Some had never seen a doctor before. They needed medical care. So he provided that care. It was often his brother-in-law, Dr. Dwyer, who did that. Father Flanagan received a letter from some nurses at a hospital for the deaf stating a young boy was there. This boy could hear a little bit, but he had been placed in the institution by his aunt. Father Flanagan investigated, spoke to the aunt, and she said, "You can have the boy if you want him. I really don't want him." So Father Flanagan brought the young boy to Boys Town. He had some surgery done on his hearing. He went on to graduate from junior high and be part of the Boys Town band. If Father Flanagan had not helped that boy, he had been locked up for the rest of his life in an institution.
During the Spanish influenza that killed millions of people, Father Flanagan created a program at Boys Town that served the children that were ill. Unfortunately, one boy passed away, but many others who had been deathly ill but were saved by Father Flanagan and his care. Eventually, in the village of Boys Town, an infirmary was built. This infirmary was run by the nuns, and that worked great taking care of the kids in the village. And, eventually, in 1955, a hospital was built that took care of the 900 boys that lived here in the '50s and '60s. That hospital closed in 1973, and in 1977, the Boys Town National Research Hospital was created. And, now, it's serving hundreds of thousands of children and families all across United States, all based on Father Flanagan's theory of helping children and families any way we can.
In 1977, the modern Boys Town Hospital was created by Dr. Patrick Brookhouser. He came with the concept that he wanted to help children with their hearing difficulties due to the fact that many children with hearing difficulties at the time were put into classrooms because they had disruptive behavior. Some of them might go to an alternative school. He said, no, those children just need help with their hearing. So Boys Town said they would begin their project of helping those kids. And through that, all the different aspects of hearing was created here at Boys Town, all part of that idea of Father Flanagan, keep evolving and changing. And that's what our hospital has done over the decades. They moved into communication disorders, helping kids and families. They've moved into pediatric care with care units all across the United States. Our Boys Town Residential Treatment Center was created to deal with children who had behavioral problems. And we had our community research programs. We help children with their hearing difficulties. That actually begins in infancy.
We have a unique photograph here in the Hall of History of an infant being tested for their hearing. That's a program now standard across United States. That began here in the Village of Boys Town with our Boys Town Hospital giving a hearing test to newborn infants. And our most latest programs we're carrying out at Boys Town is our neurobehavioral research. We have a special MRI machine here in the village where we can look into their brain and see how we can help those boys and girls, all part of the concept of Father Flanagan. He said keep evolving, keep changing to help children and families across America.