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Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) is a large and complex health care center, originally formed by combining seven predecessor hospitals.

The first of the seven predecessors, Sheltering Arms Hospital, was opened at Hansford by the Episcopal Diocese in 1888. The economics of coal production in southern West Virginia changed radically with the defeat of the miners union in the Mine Wars and a general downturn in the industry, and Sheltering Arms was bankrupt by 1923.

In 1899, the city of Charleston began a new hospital on Cemetery Hill, but ran out of funds. Dr. Frederick Thomas offered to finish the facility, hire nurses and staff, and guaranteed to allow Charleston residents to pay $1 a day for hospital care. In 1904, the name was changed from Thomas Hospital to Charleston General Hospital. Sheltering Arms patients and nursing school were transferred to Charleston General with the closing of Sheltering Arms.

The Barber Sanatorium was constructed by Dr. Timothy L. Barber Sr. in 1904 on a lot in the front yard of his home on Virginia Street. In 1959, it became the Kanawha Valley Memorial Hospital. In 1982, Kanawha Valley Memorial moved to a new complex across Elk River. The hospital was sold to CAMC in 1986 to become the Women and Children’s Division.

In 1907, Dr. William A. McMillan developed his hospital in a frame house at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Morris Street. McMillan Hospital was soon moved two blocks south into a modern structure. In 1971, McMillan became a part of Charleston General Hospital, and its buildings were demolished in 1976. Drs. Romie and W. F. Walker purchased a stately home on Virginia Street. In 1921, it became the Mountain State Hospital, which was merged into Charleston Memorial Hospital in 1969.

Dr. E. Bennett Henson purchased and renovated an unused school building in Marmet to be an acute and chronic care hospital for polio patients. Widespread use of the new polio vaccines hastened the closing of the Marmet Hospital, which became a part of General Hospital in 1967.

As late as 1941, nearly every hospital in Charleston was proprietary. Dr. Daniel Barber wrote a seminal letter to the two newspapers stressing the need for a community owned institution open to all. In 1944, Mr. and Mrs. William Ziebold Sr. held a meeting in their home, and a community board was formed. It raised $2 million from 16,000 persons. From this effort Charleston Memorial Hospital was built, and dedicated in 1951 with 129 beds. By 1974, the original plan of 440 beds and 58 bassinets had been completed on the site of a former golf course in the Kanawha City neighborhood of Charleston.

Consolidation of the two rivals, Charleston General and Charleston Memorial, began with the urging of Dr. John Chambers and other staff members. On January 1, 1972, Charleston Area Medical Center was born. By November 1972, a letter of agreement was signed by CAMC and West Virginia University, to locate a branch of the WVU School of Medicine in Charleston. With financial, political, and advisory help from William J. Maier Jr., the WVU Educational Building was dedicated in the fall of 1977 on the grounds of CAMC Memorial Division. More than three decades later, a third of all third and fourth year WVU medical students spend full time in Charleston for clinical training.

The largest hospital in the state, CAMC has 956 licensed beds at its three hospitals: General, Memorial and Women and Children’s. CAMC has more than 5,000 employees, with more than 600 physicians on its medical staff. It is a teaching hospital and, in cooperation with WVU, is responsible for more than 150 residents, interns and fellows and more than 500 other students in 44 health disciplines representing 60 educational affiliations. More than 6,000 people are employed by related companies in the CAMC Health System. This includes Teays Valley Hospital in Putnam County, the CAMC Health Education and Research Institute, and the CAMC Foundation.

The Transplant Service performs many kidney transplants and transplants other body tissues as well. The Center for Reproductive Medicine provides a broad array of treatments for genetic and fertility problems. The cardiology and cardiovascular surgery sections care for more patients than any other hospital in the state, and are high on all national lists in numbers and safety.

In 2022, CAMC announced a merger with Mon Health System to create Vandalia Health. Vandalia Health will have 12,000 employees under its umbrella and eight hospitals across three states including West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The other large health systems in West Virginia including West Virginia University Health System and the Huntington-based Mountain Health Network.

This Article was written by Warren Point

Last Revised on September 26, 2022

Related Articles


Birth of a Medical Center: A History of CAMC. Charleston: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1988.

Fleming, Dolores. The Southern Pylons. Morgantown: Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, 1997.

Cite This Article

Point, Warren "Charleston Area Medical Center." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 26 September 2022. Web. 01 December 2022.


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