Fitzsimons Army Medical Center
The Fitzsimons Army Medical Center (formerly the Fitzsimons Army Hospital) was a medical facility of the United States military during the 20th century located on 577 acre (2.3 km²) in Aurora, Colorado. The facility closed in 1999 and the grounds are currently being redeveloped for civilian use as the Fitzsimons Medical Campus.
The facility was founded by the United States Army during World War I arising from the need to treat the large number of casualties from chemical weapons in Europe. Denver's reputation as a prime location for the treatment of tuberculosis led local citizens to lobby the Army on behalf of Denver as the site for the new hospital. Army Hospital 21, as it was first called, was formally dedicated in the autumn of 1918 in Aurora, which at the time had a population of less than 1,000. In July 1920, the facility was formally renamed the Fitzsimons Army Hospital after Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, the first U.S. casualty in World War I.
The facility was used heavily during World War II to treat returning casualties and became one of the Army's premier medical training centers. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower received treatment at the facility three separate times for his heart condition while he was president. In September 1955, while on vacation at his in-laws' house in Denver, he suffered a myocardial infarction and was placed in an oxygen tent at the facility. In 2000, a suite of rooms on hospital's eighth floor was restored to appear as it did when Eisenhower was recovering there.
Closure and transfer of facilities
In July 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of the facility, with the exception of the Edgar J. McWhethy Army Reserve Center, located at the southeast corner of the installation. The closure was completed in 1999. The $744-million redevelopment of the facility into civilian use includes the construction of the University of Colorado Hospital's $110-million Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion, and the $509-million Children's Hospital. The medical campus also includes the Ben Nighthorse Campbell Center for Native American Research, named in honor of the U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado.
Additional facilities built at the location include the Veterans Administration Medical Center. In addition to the relocation of several federal facilities and departments to the location, a considerable amount of property was turned over to the city of Aurora, Colorado, allowing the city to use buildings and land as the new location for the city's police academy.
FAMC was the location of the United States Army Medical Equipment and Optical School (USAMEOS). USAMEOS provided technicians trained in Biomedical Equipment Repair or Optical Laboratory Operations. Biomedical Equipment Repair personnel (referred to as BMETs -- pronounced 'bee/mets') were assigned to military medical units to install, maintain, repair, and calibrate sophisticated life support, diagnostic, imaging, and general medical equipment. Military Occupation Specialities (MOS) graduating from USAMEOS included: 35G, 35S, 35T, and later 35U. In the hallways of the USAMEOS training facility hung the pictures of graduating BMET classes over decades of operation. The training program was divided into Basic and Advanced Courses. Basic course work was 20 weeks long. Advanced course work was 32 weeks long. With a small amount of additional course work, USAMEOS graduates could earn an AAS in Biomedical Equipment Maintenance from Regis College of Denver. After graduation from the basic course, typically students would be assigned to an operational unit for practical work between the Basic and Advanced Courses. Graduates of USAMEOS are in high demand as skilled technicians in industry. Technical training at USAMEOS was intensive and provided both engineering theory and hands on learning opportunities in an extensive set of labs.
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