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Highlights | History in the making

  • Fear of an atomic attack led to the hospital’s conception.
  • Northwest Community Memorial Hospital opened its doors in 1960.
  • Innovation in the 1960s set the tone for areas of growth and specialization today.
  • In 2020, UW Medical Center became a two-campus hospital system that includes Montlake and Northwest campuses.


On January 1, 2020, Northwest Hospital became UW Medical Center – Northwest, the second campus in a two-campus hospital system.

UW Medical Center – Northwest may be on its third name, but its heart and soul remains the same — a place that people want to work and receive care.

Rooted in Pacific Northwest history

According to “Northwest Hospital: A Place Full of Life” by Janet Pankow, the hospital has roots reaching back to 1940s Seattle. This was post-World War II, and pre-Space Needle and I-5 Seattle.

Seattle back then, much like now, was growing.

In the 1940s, Seattle was short on hospital beds. Seven of the eight hospitals at the time (now, there are 68 hospitals within 25 miles of Seattle) were located in or around downtown Seattle.

Residents of the North End worried about access to care in the event of an atomic attack on the city. Health planners and the Atomic Energy Commission recommended building a new hospital in the Northgate suburb of Seattle.

The hospital began with a $181 donation from the Associated Clubs of the North End. From conception to the opening of its doors, it took about 15 years to raise the rest of the funds, cut through red tape and build the 281-bed hospital.

old fundraising photo

Northwest Community Memorial Hospital, as it was then known, opened in 1960.

Milestones in exceptional care

The hospital over the years has grown and changed, much like the city of Seattle, but it remains a full-service medical center providing emergency, inpatient and outpatient care. Many of the milestones of the 1960s have translated into areas of specialization for the hospital.

  • Level I Stroke Center: In the 1960s, the hospital opened the physical therapy department that would turn into a comprehensive rehabilitation program and evolve into a Level I Stroke Center.
  • Obstetrics: The 10,000th baby was born at the hospital in 1966; the obstetrics department now includes a midwifery program with a newly remodeled Childbirth Center underway.
  • Cardiology, cardiac surgery and rehabilitation: In 1967, Northwest was the second Seattle-area hospital to operate a coronary intensive care unit. Now part of the Heart Institute, the program has grown to provide a wide range of cardiac services, including early prevention, risk assessment, and acute and chronic disease management.
  • Oncology: The 1960s also saw the beginnings of Northwest’s oncology program. It began with the purchase of a radioisotope Magna Scanner used in the detection and treatment of tumors. Now partnered with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, UW Medicine cancer specialists deliver breakthrough therapies for outpatient oncology and hematology treatment.

Love for Northwest

The exceptional care that UW Medical Center – Northwest has been providing for over 60 years starts with the dedicated employees and volunteers — many of whom have been with the hospital through years of change and growth.

“I have seen miracles happen at Northwest Hospital. I have seen teams come together to perform magic. When you need all hands on deck, you will find more help than you could possibly need. As we become UW Medical Center – Northwest, I do not see this part of our history and culture changing.”

Elizabeth Skelton, RN
Emergency Department Operations Manager
14 years at UW Medical Center – Northwest

“The people who’ve come before us, who built the foundation of trust and established our tradition, have been followed by subsequent generations of individuals with the same allegiance to the success of UW Medical Center – Northwest. This organizational spirit of purpose has made this hospital a great place to be.”

Brock Arnold
Volunteer Manager
23 years at UW Medical Center – Northwest

“Casting Call is a fly-fishing trip for women who have recently completed breast cancer surgery. The last time I was able to attend, a mother and daughter on the trip recognized me.

As it turned out, I had cared for the mother in the ICU during a critical illness associated with her cancer therapy; she was able to survive a very challenging situation. At the time, her daughter was in the midst of her own breast cancer diagnosis. She had a particularly aggressive form that she too had successfully survived, and they were both celebrating on the fishing trip.

It was a remarkable circle of challenge, care and courage — and to be a part was a great privilege.”

Mary Horan, MD
Associate Medical Director, Clinical Technology & Informatics
Pulmonologist, Respiratory Clinic at UW Medical Center – Northwest
21 years at UW Medical Center – Northwest

“The UW Medical Center – Northwest campus is a wonderful place to receive high-quality, service-centered care. The campus is easy to access and has a comfortable feel for patients.

Combining the two campuses into one hospital is a win for our patients and a win for UW Medicine.”

Cindy Hecker
Chief Executive Officer, UW Medical Center
Eight years at UW Medical Center – Northwest

If you want to leave a love note about UW Medical Center – Northwest, please share in the comments below.

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