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United Methodist Church and IU Health

The rich history of medical breakthroughs and community service at Indiana University Health can be traced back to its two founding organizations: the United Methodist Church and Indiana University. Today, these two organizations each comprise half of the governing bodies of IU Health. The spirit of the United Methodist Church’s mission to provide healthcare to those who need it most remains central to IU Health’s values in patient care.

The Methodist faith had a strong presence in Indianapolis long before its church members funded and built Methodist Hospital in 1908. In fact, the first official sermon ever preached in Indianapolis was given by Methodist Reverend Resen Hammond in 1819, near the current site of the State Capitol.

Using funds left over from hosting a national Methodist youth conference in the city in 1899, church leaders decided that the Christian cause they would finance next would be a new hospital. At the time, there were three hospitals in Indianapolis – each overcrowded and forced to turn away patients.

The United Methodist Church named the new facility the Methodist Episcopal Hospital and Deaconess Home of the State of Indiana, and its objective was “to establish and maintain a hospital or hospitals for the treatment of the sick, wounded and injured persons, to dispense charity to the poor, and to establish and maintain a Deaconess Home or other kindred institutions.”

Throughout more than a century of service, Methodist Hospital has continuously pioneered innovative care. The hospital played an important role in the historical breakthrough of the use of insulin to treat diabetes in the 1920s; artificial kidney implants and kidney transplants in the 1960s and 70s; and has a time-honored tradition of providing medical education.

The deep history and shared objectives to teach and innovate brought together Methodist Hospital and Indiana University Hospital in 1997. The two hospital boards became one, uniting both institutions in their longstanding traditions of exceptional healthcare, education and the advancement of medicine.

As the relationship between the United Methodist Church and IU Health melded over the years, they established a number of programs that express the values of both organizations internally and externally.

  • The IU Health Board of Directors created a committee on Values, Ethics, Social Responsibility, and Pastoral Services to ensure resources were invested in ways to uphold the mission and values. The committee summarizes key projects and outcomes for the health system in an annual report.
  • The Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Services department is one of the oldest in the country. Chaplains have become important members of the healthcare team and provide spiritual care to patients and their families, as well as to hospital staff.  They offer care at the moment it is needed, with sensitivity to the many faith traditions of the patients.
  • IU Health’s Community Benefit and Outreach efforts model the mission and values by conducting community outreach initiatives that improve the health of community members and offering financial assistance to patients who are unable to pay. As a part of its commitment to provide high-quality care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, in 2015, IU Health provided more than $351 million in free or reduced-cost healthcare to qualified patients.
  • Another example of IU Health’s commitment to upholding its values is the creation of the Charles Warren Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics, an organization that proactively manages all the services, research and educational efforts in clinical ethics. As does the Evans Center for Spiritual and Religious Values in Healthcare, which provides a forum for the encouragement of interdisciplinary collaboration and support of spirituality in healthcare-related research. The creation of these two values-based organizations by a health system is truly unique and clearly demonstrates how the United Methodist Church has influenced the mission of IU Health.