Magazine Article

New Era of Whole-Person Healing

One hundred ten years after Adventist health care appeared in metropolitan Washington, D.C., it begins a new chapter in patient care.

Maura Zehr
New Era of Whole-Person Healing

About a mile from the Seventh-day Adventist Church world headquarters, a new health ministry is coming to life that will expand care to the community and continue the legacy that the early Adventist Church shaped more than a century ago.

Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital’s newly constructed hospital will be located six miles north of its 13-acre Takoma Park, Maryland, campus. The new location, on 48 acres in White Oak, Maryland, will allow Washington Adventist to offer private patient rooms, additional outpatient health services, and doctor’s offices on campus. Patients and ambulances will use major roadways for easier access to the hospital. There will also be additional public transportation routes.

The relocated hospital will also have a new name, Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, when it opens in the summer of 2019. The existing Takoma Park campus will offer 24/7 urgent care, primary care, and other services.

“Through the years we have been blessed to help many in our community with our quality care and compassion,” said Terry Forde, president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, which operates Washington Adventist Hospital. “That will remain at the core of what we do as we extend our mission at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center.”

A Century of Care and Compassion

Adventist HealthCare’s new hospital extends a health ministry that began more than 110 years ago with the founding of the Washington Sanitarium in 1907. Adventists purchased the property in Takoma Park for $6,000. Ellen White and her husband, James, used proceeds from her book The Ministry of Healing to help with the purchase. The sanitarium began with 40 beds, 12 staff members, and a focus on healing through wellness, pure food, and relaxation in nature. Daniel Kress, M.D., the hospital’s first medical superintendent and surgeon, and his wife, Lauretta Kress, M.D., Montgomery County’s first female doctor, were instrumental in establishing the hospital’s mission and clinical foundation.

From the beginning, Washington Adventist Hospital founders spoke out about the dangers of tobacco. Dr. Lauretta Kress lectured and wrote advising expectant mothers in the Washington, D.C., region not to smoke. Decades later the message of maintaining good health through good habits led hospital physicians to develop a successful quit smoking program well ahead of public health campaigns.

The Kresses also built much of what we have come to expect from any modern hospital, including maternity services and the emergency department, which set the stage for the hospital to begin one of the region’s first cardiac centers in the 1960s.

“Over time, the hospital’s mission to heal—mind, body, and spirit—has remained as we’ve grown to serve the needs of our changing community,” said Geoff Morgan, project executive for Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center. Morgan joined Washington Adventist Hospital 35 years ago as a clinician in the pulmonary and critical-care service areas.

The Washington Sanitarium opened in 1907 with the assistance from proceeds of Ellen G. White’s book, The Ministry of Healing.

Rooted in Faith and Comfort

The legacy established by the Whites and Kresses will live on at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center through a focus on natural healing elements.

Patients, visitors, and staff will take in the natural surroundings and fresh air from a green roof garden. Private rooms with large windows and lake views will offer patients natural light and landscape views, which contribute to healing. An outdoor walking trail will also provide a fitness and wellness area for the surrounding community to enjoy.

The new name, Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, is connected to the hospital’s current health and healing outreach. The White Oak tree is a symbol of faith and comfort. The Hebrew name for an oak is derived from the word “providence,” meaning divine guidance, and frequently linked to God’s ability to “see ahead.” The White Oak is also Maryland’s state tree and is valued for its strength, quality, and resiliency.

The White Oak area, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is located, is becoming nationally known as a hub of life sciences and health.

State-of-the-art Healing

Construction is now under way inside the new hospital after its seven-story exterior was completed late last year. During the design process nurses and physicians worked closely with the architects to create an environment focused on providing quality, compassionate care.

In addition to featuring the latest equipment and tools, the new space that’s being created to help people heal will also have a meaningful impact. From testing and procedural areas to nursing units and the emergency department, patients and their caregivers will be able to discuss care plans and rest in privacy and comfort.

“We worked with the architects to thoughtfully design our new home in a way that allows us to provide compassionate care for patients at every step of the way,” said Rose Melendez, who has worked at Washington Adventist Hospital for nearly 30 years and serves as the project manager for the hospital’s transition to White Oak. “We pray the new hospital will enhance the lives of our patients, their families, and our caregivers.”

The new hospital will feature natural healing elements such as rooms with lake views and an outdoor walking trail.

Transforming the Community

Medical innovation will also take place beyond the hospital walls.

Once in White Oak, a decade-long collaboration between the FDA and Adventist HealthCare will expand. As neighbors, FDA researchers can more readily observe medical procedures in the hospital setting and collaborate with clinicians on innovative ideas to advance patient safety and public health.

Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center will have a significant impact on the region. According to Stephen S. Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, the hospital will create 7,500 jobs between construction and ongoing operations. Construction alone will contribute $845 million to Maryland’s economy.

“The new Washington Adventist Hospital is a major milestone in revitalizing the eastern part of Montgomery County and fulfilling White Oak’s potential as a global health innovation hub,” said Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett. “We are proud of our partnership with the hospital in making health care more accessible to our residents, while bringing quality jobs to the White Oak area.”

The hospital’s philanthropic partnerships with supporters across the region have also played an important role in making Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center a reality. To date, the hospital’s capital campaign has raised approximately $7 million of its $20 million goal.

“We are thankful for our generous donors,” said Christy Swanson, director of the Washington Adventist Hospital Foundation. “Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center will heal in so many ways, through the outstanding care it provides, jobs it creates, and long-lasting impact on improving lives.”

Physicians and physician groups associated with Washington Adventist Hospital have contributed more than a third of the amount raised. Cynthia Plate, a surgeon and past president of the hospital’s medical staff, is among that growing group and also a member of the capital campaign’s Physician Partners Committee.

“We have a rare opportunity to be part of something very special that will change the entire region for the better,” Dr. Plate said. “I am excited and honored to be part of it from the ground floor up.”

A New Chapter

When the Washington Sanitarium opened its doors in 1907, the vision of introducing patients to new ideas of health and wellness through nutrition, good habits, and faith became a reality in the Washington, D.C., region. The legacy of physical, mental, and spiritual healing has underpinned the mission at the sanitarium, Washington Adventist Hospital, and in 2019, Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center.

“We’re fortunate to be standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and working to ensure that our mission is as meaningful today as it was in the beginning,” said Erik Wangsness, president of Washington Adventist Hospital. “We feel blessed to be able to carry forward the message of health and wellness to the community we serve.”

To learn more about Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center and stay current on the project, visit

Maura Zehr is communication manager for Adventist HealthCare, headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Maura Zehr