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CAMC (Vandalia Health)


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 under the umbrella of Vandalia Health, it is now the third largest private employer in West Virginia.

The first of the seven CAMC 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.

CAMC also is a teaching hospital. 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 four decades later, a third of all third and fourth year WVU medical students spend full time in Charleston for clinical training.

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 the 21st century, CAMC has expanded statewide. In addition to operating CAMC General, CAMC Memorial, and CAMC Women and Children’s in Charleston, it acquired CAMC Teays Valley (formerly Putnam General) in Hurricane in 2006. In 2022, CAMC merged with Mon Health System to create Vandalia Health, which has health care facilities across three states: West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Under Vandalia Health, individual facilities retain their historic name identities. Through the merger, Vandalia Health added Monongalia County Hospital in Morgantown, Marion Neighborhood Hospital in White Hall near Fairmont, Preston Memorial in Kingwood, Stonewall Jackson Memorial in Weston, Grafton City Hospital, The Village at Heritage Point independent living facility in Morgantown, and over 40 other locations.

In January 2023, Vandalia/CAMC CEO Dave Ramsey commented that his organization views itself in direct growth competition with WVU Medicine while providing the best care for patients as close to their homes as possible. Since the merger, Vandalia Health has added the following affiliates: Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Ronceverte, Greenbrier County; Minnie Hamilton Health System in Glenville and Grantsville; Plateau Medical Center in Oak Hill; the Highland-Clarksburg Hospital in Clarksburg; and the Davis Health System, which includes 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.

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.

  3. Jenkins, Jeff. CAMC, Vandalia Health Adding Hospitals to Health System. MetroNews. January 16, 2023.

  4. West Virginia Health Care Authority. 2007 Annual Report: West Virginia Health Care Authority. West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources. Charleston, WV: West Virginia Health Care Authority, 2007.

  5. Hodousek, Carrie. CAMC acquires Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. WV Metro News, January 1, 2023.

  6. Fan, Christina. New CAMC Cancer Center opens to the public. WOWK-TV, May 3, 2015.

  7. Stowers, Shannon. Vandalia Health System reaches agreement to acquire Southern West Virginia hospital. WV Metro News, January 12, 2023.