Health Matters 11/8: Celebrating 100 years of caring for residents of New Jersey

By Barry Rabner

Every journey starts with a single step.

At Penn Medicine Princeton Health, the journey started 100 years ago in a farmhouse on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, where the original Princeton Hospital was founded after the nation’s great influenza epidemic of 1918.

In October that year, with three of the community’s seven doctors serving the country in World War I, the spreading flu epidemic struck Princeton hard, resulting in more than 300 cases of flu that month.

Close to 50 people developed pneumonia and more than 15 died.

In response, the community came together to raise funds for a hospital in Princeton. Philanthropist Moses Taylor Pyne donated the farmhouse on Witherspoon Street, and the 22-bed hospital opened on Nov. 24, 1919.

A lot has changed since then.

From Humble Farmhouse to Top-Ranked System

Since its start in a farmhouse 100 years ago, and now, as part of Penn Medicine, Princeton Health has become one of the most comprehensive healthcare systems in New Jersey, providing a wide range of inpatient and outpatient hospital care, behavioral health and addiction services, rehabilitation, in-home nursing, hospice care and fitness and wellness services in 40 locations to more than 1.3 million people in Central New Jersey.

In 2012, Princeton Health built a new state-of-the-art hospital on Route 1 in Plainsboro to enhance access for patients, accommodate new technologies and improve safety and comfort. Like the original hospital on Witherspoon Street, the new hospital received tremendous community support. The Design for Healing capital campaign raised a record-breaking $171.3 million, with more than 11,000 individuals, corporations and foundations contributing.

In fiscal year 2018, Princeton Health admitted over 18,000 patients and had more than 49,000 emergency department visits. Outpatient visits totaled 313,110, including more than 93,300 visits to Princeton House Behavioral Health. More than 2,200 babies were born at the hospital in fiscal year 2018, and Princeton HomeCare, now Penn Medicine at Home, made more than 72,200 visits.

Princeton Health employs approximately 3,300 staff and has an active medical staff of more than 1,300 physicians. Princeton Medicine, Princeton Health’s group of employed primary and specialty physicians, employs more than 170 practitioners at 21 locations across central New Jersey. A total of 860 volunteers provided 85,000 hours of service to the hospital.

The present hospital is now recognized internationally for its innovative and environmentally responsible design, and the quality of care Princeton Health provides earned recognitions from “U.S. News and World Report,” the Leapfrog Group, The Joint Commission and many other prestigious organizations.

Additionally, PMC has achieved Magnet status, the highest institutional recognition available for nursing excellence, and is one of just 502 Magnet-recognized organizations nationwide.

Princeton Health has also received recognition for its comprehensive community education and outreach efforts, which includes 1,700 programs each year, such as free health screenings and educational sessions led by doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

A Future Guided By Values

Describing Princeton Health today is easy. Describing the future is more difficult.

Given the remarkable and rapid advances in healthcare technology, pharmaceuticals, clinical practice, and reimbursement, coupled with research and applying big data to improve clinical care and operational performance, envisioning how care will be delivered in the future is challenging.

It is assumed that care must be more easily accessible and provided at significantly lower costs. It is likely more care will be delivered in people’s homes on an outpatient basis and through telemedicine. Very low cost digital technology will be even more widely deployed to monitor health, provide information and coordinate and access care.

Clinical solutions will be personalized based upon each person’s genetic profile. People will likely want to know more about their health and their care and be meaningfully involved in directing their care.

Perhaps most importantly, people will want healthcare providers to help them be more proactive in maintaining their physical and mental health, and not to just fix problems when they arrive.

Many of these advances and innovative approaches to care have the potential to significantly improve people’s lives.

Today, as part of Penn Medicine, Princeton Health is well positioned to be on the cutting edge of these changes and to integrate them into the delivery of care, while continuing to be guided by our values – communication, collaboration, excellence and integrity – in all we do. 

You’re Invited  

Penn Medicine Princeton Health will host a special centennial celebration for the community on Sunday, Nov. 24 at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center, 1 Plainsboro Road, Plainsboro.

The celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include interactive health and wellness exhibits; healthy cooking demonstrations; fashion shows featuring patients who have had bariatric surgery; a close up look at a fire truck, police car and ambulance, and a Drug Take Back Program, where attendees can turn in their leftover prescription medications for proper disposal. A teddy bear clinic and a family yoga class will be held at 9 a.m.

Registration is optional. Those who do register will be entered into a drawing to win a prize.

To register or for more information about the Centennial, visit

To find a physician affiliated with Penn Medicine Princeton Health, call 888.742.7496 or visit

Barry Rabner is President and CEO of Penn Medicine Princeton Health.