Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Dr. John Gifford, a popular local physician and the son of an East Randolph farmer, took up as a personal cause the creation of a hospital in his home town. In 1903, he purchased the Seldon Holman house on South Main Street – at the site of today’s Gifford Medical Center – and with two nurses established a private hospital. Two years later, discouraged by the high expenses and demands that came with running a small hospital alone, Dr. Gifford made plans to close his hospital.
It was then that several local leaders, realizing the value of the hospital, stepped forward to create a corporation that would purchase the hospital and keep it open. Offering shares of capital stock to the community at $25 a piece, they easily raised the $7,500 that was needed to keep the doors open. The hospital became the Randolph Sanatorium, with Dr. Gifford as its medical director. Student nurses were a part of the hospital from the very beginning and in 1905 a two-year nursing program was established.
In 1906, Dr. Gifford hired registered nurse Eliza Folsom from Mary Fletcher Hospital in Burlington to be the superintendent of nurses and the Sanatorium graduated its first class in 1908. After her marriage to Dr. Gifford in 1909, Miss Folsom resigned as superintendent. The last class of nurses to graduate from Gifford was in 1955.
In 1909, the corporation acknowledged its first two gifts from non-shareholders, $100 each. These gifts were used to start the Hospital Endowment Fund. In 1924, with the Sanatorium firmly established in town, the corporation reorganized itself into a non-profit corporation, still dependent on the community for support.
In 1933, Dr. John Gifford nicked his finger while performing surgery on a patient with a streptococcus infection. He contracted the then-deadly infection and died several weeks later despite treatment from the best specialists and staff at Deaconess Hospital in Boston.
After his death, the shareholders unanimously voted to change the Sanatorium’s name to Gifford Memorial Hospital to honor the memory of the doctor whose vision laid Gifford’s foundation.