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Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC)


Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) is a large and complex health care center, originally formed by combining seven predecessor hospitals. After its 2022 merger with Mon Health as Vandalia Health, CAMC is now the third largest private employer in West Virginia.

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 and became CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital in 1988.

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 (CAMC) 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 1,078 licensed beds at its five hospitals: CAMC General, CAMC Memorial, and CAMC Women and Children’s in Charleston; CAMC Teays Valley (through the acquisition of Putnam General in 2006) in Hurricane; and CAMC Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Ronceverte, Greenbrier County (acquired in 2023). CAMC itself has nearly 8,000 employees, with more than 800 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 800 other students in 44 health disciplines representing 60 educational affiliations.

It also operates the CAMC Foundation (1976), Family Resource Center (1989), CAMC Health Education and Research Institute (CHERI) (1997), Women’s Comprehensive Breast Center (1997), the state’s first Children’s Cancer Center (2001) and Bariatric Center (2003), CAMC Heart and Vascular Center (2008), CAMC Cancer Center (2015), and CAMC Outpatient Surgery Center (2017). CAMC also transplants kidneys (beginning in 1987) and 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 merged with Mon Health System to create Vandalia Health, which has 12,000 employees under its umbrella and hospitals across three states: West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Mon Health had begun as the Monongalia County Hospital, dating back to the 1920s, in Morgantown. Over the years, it added to its network Marion Neighborhood Hospital in White Hall near Fairmont, Preston Memorial in Kingwood, Stonewall Jackson Memorial in Weston, The Village at Heritage Point independent living facility in Morgantown, and over 40 other locations.

Since the merger, Vandalia Health includes the entire CAMC and Mon Health networks plus the following affiliates: Grafton City Hospital, Minnie Hamilton Health System in Glenville and Grantsville, the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital in Clarksburg, and the Davis Health System, which included the Davis Medial Center in Elkins, Broaddus Hospital in Philippi, and Webster Memorial Hospital in Webster Springs. The other large health systems in West Virginia include WVU Medicine and the Huntington-based Mountain Health Network. In January 2023, Vandalia/CAMC CEO Dave Ramsey commented that his organization views itself in direct growth competition with WVU Medicine while still aiming to provide the best care for patients as close to their homes as possible.

Written by Warren Point


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

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