The first Harbin to practice medicine in Georgia was Dr. Wylie Reeder Harbin, who was born in Fairplay, SC, on April 25, 1832.
Dr. Harbin's education included studying medicine under Dr. Robert B. Maxwell, a country doctor in Fairplay, and graduating from the Medical College of South Carolina in 1858.
During the Civil War, he served in the 7th Regiment South Carolina Cavalry. He saw action in the skirmishes along the north side of the James River and in the battles from Richmond to Appomattox, VA. He was captured in Farmville, VA on the Saturday before the surrender and remained a prisoner until news that the war was over reached the prison. After he was released, he walked more than 350 miles back to his home in South Carolina.
Dr. Harbin married Mary Stokes Shelor (1840-1913) in 1861. In 1871, the family moved to Gordon County near Calhoun, GA, where Dr. Harbin practiced medicine until he was forced to retire due to poor health in the late 1890s.
Wylie Reeder Harbin, M.D., had four children:
- Thomas Witherspoon Harbin (1862-1937)
- Robert Maxwell Harbin, M.D. (1864-1939)
- Nina Harbin (1867-1935)
- William Pickens Harbin, M.D., (1872-1942)
Thomas Witherspoon Harbin, the eldest child, did not become a doctor. Instead, he successfully organized and built the Echota Cotton Mills in Calhoun. He also became a judge, state senator, and religious leader, playing an important part in the development of Gordon County. After attending Harvard Medical School, Judge Thomas Harbin's son, Robert Maxwell Harbin II, was briefly associated with the Harbin Hospital in Rome from 1922 to 1924. He later became a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Western Reserve College in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dr. W. R. Harbin's second son, Robert Maxwell Harbin, Sr., M.D. (1864 -1939), was educated at the University of Georgia and the Bellevue Medical College of New York City. He returned to practice with his father in Calhoun in 1888. In 1894, Robert Maxwell Harbin, Sr., M.D., moved to Rome to set up practice. In 1897, he invited his younger brother to join his practice.
William Pickens Harbin, M.D., was actually the first Harbin doctor to be born in Georgia (on October 11, 1872, at his father's farm in Gordon County). He received an A.B. degree from the University of Georgia in 1894 and a Medical Doctorate from Bellevue Hospital Medical College of New York City in 1897.
In 1897, William Pickens Harbin, M.D. (later known as Dr. Will) accepted his older brother's offer to join his surgical practice in Rome, Georgia.
Shortly after arriving in Rome in 1898 and borrowing money from his brother to begin his medical practice, Dr. Will left Rome to accept a commission as acting assistant surgeon in the United States Army during the Spanish American War. He saved his military pay, repaid his brother's loan, and returned to Rome after the war in 1901. The first practice location for the two Harbin brothers was on the second floor of the building at 206 Broad Street (adjacent to the current Wyatt's building). Prospective patients would call from the sidewalk to learn if one or both doctors were in before walking up the stairs. The two Harbin brothers practiced medicine together until Dr. Robert's death in 1939.
Some interesting facts about how the Harbin brothers practiced medicine:
The forerunners of modern day ambulances, two low-style buggies, each with a pair of horses and waiting drivers, were always parked on the sidewalk in front of the building, ready to race the doctors to the home of patients in need of medical attention.
The cost of an office visit was usually $1. Home visits were $2 to $3. O. B. cases were $10 to $ 30. Often bills could not be paid until the cotton crops came in. When people paid in full at the time of service, they expected a cash discount.
Smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid, pellagra, tuberculosis and diabetes were common diseases of the time. Diagnosis depended on active symptoms, physical findings and sputum examinations. Hypodermic syringes could not be boiled as the plungers were made of leather. Needles were wiped clean with alcohol.
The Harbin brothers established the Harbin Hospital in 1908. The original hospital occupied a former residence at the southeastern corner of Third Avenue and First Street and had 12 beds.
In 1919, a new "state-of-the-art" four-story, fire-proof building was constructed next to the original hospital at the cost of $90,000. The original hospital was turned into a dormitory for the nurse training program that had been established in 1911.
In 1920, three additional stories were added to the structure, raising the bed capacity to 75. The seven-story building was Rome's tallest structure. According to George Magruder Battey's history of Rome, "the new Harbin Hospital was a marvel of sturdiness, architectural beauty, and completeness, and is highly symbolic of the character of work performed by the staff."
The building contained every modern convenience of the time, such as vapor heating systems, electric lights, silent call systems, hot and cold running water in each room, linoleum floors, three operating suites, large sun parlors on three floors and a private telephone exchange. The safe-gate elevator ran from the basement to the roof.
In 1921, the Harbin Hospital was recognized by the American College of Surgeons as one of only four hospitals in Georgia to meet the board's standards of excellence. Georgia Baptist and Grady Hospital in Atlanta and the hospital at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta were the only other Georgia facilities listed.
Franklin D. Martin, M.D., director of the American College of Surgeons wrote the following comments in his 1921 review of the Harbin Hospital:
"Your splendid work and the fruit of it, which are apparent in your community, must afford you more gratification than the stamp of our approval ever can."
In 1921, President Warren G. Harding declared "Hospital Day" on May 12 as an occasion for opening hospitals across the country to visitors to demonstrate methods of examination and treatment of patients.
At that time the Harbin Hospital housed dozens of soldiers who had recently returned from service during World War I. It was decided that "Hospital Day" would be an appropriate time for the staff and patients to wear red poppies to honor fallen soldiers, especially with the national Memorial Day observance coming up on May 30.
More than a dozen nurses conducted tours of the hospital, showing visitors everything from the basement to the fireproof roof. The basement housed the laboratory and X-ray rooms, as well as the kitchen and dining room.
In 1919 the Harbin Hospital had been the recipient of a philanthropic gift from J. P. Cooper (local cotton broker and founder of Darlington School) of 100 milligrams of radium and a deep X-ray therapy machine, costing $11,000. Very few places in the country offered cancer patients innovative radiation therapy treatment. The "Hospital Day" records from 1921 showed that 106 patients had been given radium treatment since the program's inception.
Other records displayed to the public on that day included the hospital statistics for the month of April 1921.
- Number of patients having completed physical examination by two or more physicians...160
- Laboratory examinations...433
- X-ray examinations...240
- Patients admitted to hospital...145
- Average hospital stay...9.3 days
- Patients given radium treatment...13
The Harbin Hospital's staff at that time included:
- 29 Nursing staff
- 4 Laboratory staff
- 6 Clerical staff
- 9 Housekeeping staff
- 48 TOTAL
The physicians that practiced at the Harbin Hospital at that time included Drs. R. M. and W. P. Harbin, W. H. Lewis, William J. Shaw, Ross P. Cox, George B. Smith, J. Turner McCall, J. C. Wafts, A. C. Shamblin and M. M. McCord.
1920s - 1940s
The Harbin Hospital has associated many fine physicians through the years who contributed a great deal of medical knowledge and expertise to help keep the hospital on the cutting-edge of treatment innovations.
An article in the October 31, 1919 Rome Tribune-Herald proclaims, "Harbin Hospital Secures Services of Dr. W. H. Lewis; Famous Diagnostician from Mayo Clinic joins local staff."
Dr. Lewis came to the Harbin Hospital in the spring of 1920 to establish the department of internal medicine and diagnosis. He had just returned from a tour of German prison camps after World War I - at the request of the United States government - to report on sanitary conditions there.
Many other distinguished physicians were associated with the hospital over the-years including Drs. B. S. Branham, C. L. Betts, W. J. Shaw, R. P. Cox, G. B. Smith, M.D. (the father of two Rome physicians, Dr. Lucius Smith, Radiologist and Dr. Steve Smith, Pediatrician), J. T. McCall, A. C. Shamblin, M. M. McCord, J. H. Mull, E. J. Radcliffe and R. C. Maddox.
In 1925, the Harbin Hospital's eighth biennial report told of an innovative orthopaedic program that followed the treatment of bone fractures with physiotherapy (known today as physical therapy). Miss W. Watson, who had received her training at the Boston City Hospital, was in charge of the physiotherapy department that offered treatments including diathermia, auto-condensation and massage.
Dr. Will Harbin distinguished himself as a surgeon by performing many first-time procedures in Floyd County, including the first Caesarean section, blood matching, blood transfusion and goiter operation. Harbin Hospital bought the first X-ray machine ever owned in Rome and made the first X-ray pictures, including the first dental films.
Dr. Robert Harbin died in 1939, and Dr. Will suffered a fatal heart attack in his office at the Harbin Hospital on November 5, 1942.
During the 1930s and 40s, the third generation of Harbin physicians returned to practice in Rome. Dr. R. M. Harbin's son, Robert Maxwell Harbin, Jr., M.D. returned in 1930. Dr. Will Harbin's three sons also returned: William P. Harbin, Jr., M.D., in 1932; Dr. Bannester Lester Harbin, Sr., M.D., in 1933; and Dr. Thomas Shelor Harbin, M.D., in 1946, after service in the Navy in World War II.
Founding Members - The Harbin Clinic July 1, 1948
Pictured L-R, Standing: Dr. Tom Harbin, Dr. Warren Gilbert,
Dr. Edward Bosworth, Dr. Lester Harbin.
Seated L-R: Dr. William Harbin and Dr. Robert Harbin
With an expansion of the county-owned facility, Floyd Hospital, to 120 beds, the decision was made in 1948 to transform the Harbin Hospital into a medical clinic, where physicians would see and treat patients on an outpatient basis with no overnight care.
The 1948 change prompted extensive renovation within the 40 year old building, including an air-condition system, and tearing down the original Harbin Hospital (now the nurse's dormitory) to make room for more parking. The Harbin Hospital School of Nursing was also discontinued at this point.
The 1948 Rome News Tribune offered this statement: "The clinic will be a unique establishment for this section, offering a complete unit of doctors and all medical facilities available under one roof." The clinic was to offer complete diagnostic and treatment facilities including radium, enlarged laboratories, X-ray, and electrocardiographic equipment.
The staff of the Harbin Clinic in 1948 included: Dr. Robert M. Harbin, Jr., Dr. William P. Harbin, Jr., Dr. Lester Harbin, Dr. George B. Smith, Dr. Warren Gilbert, Dr. Ed Bosworth, Dr. Tom Harbin, Dr. C. J. Wyatt and Dr. Robert J. Black.
In 1969, a "contemporary" 34,000 square foot building was built on an eight acre tract obtained from Berry College at the corner of Martha Berry Boulevard and Redmond Road. The new clinic was "a joint venture of the staff of the clinic to help meet the growing demand for medical services in the northwest Georgia area."
The 1969 building provided office space for twenty doctors and a dentist, plus central services and a leased pharmacy operated by Enloe Drug Stores.
In the summer of 2007, Harbin Clinic opened the Harbin Clinic Specialty Center at 550 Redmond Road next door to the Harbin Clinic Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Center. The Specialty Center houses Dermatology, Internal Medicine, Nephrology, Neurosciences, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the Vascular Lab, and Vascular Surgery.
The Harbin Clinic Summerville Dialysis Center was opened in Summerville in January 2008, while the Harbin Clinic Cedartown Medical Building was opened in the fall of that year. The Cedartown location houses Cardiac Rehab, Diabetes Management, the Dialysis Center, Family Medicine and Internal Medicine. The Harbin Clinic Cartersville Medical Center opened in 2008 and houses Cardiac Rehab, Cardiology, Diabetes Management, Family Practice, Imaging, Internal Medicine, General Surgery, Laboratory, Pediatrics, Rheumatology, and a multi-specialty department for nine different specialties.
In April of 2011, Harbin Clinic completed a comprehensive state-of-the-art cancer center in Rome called the Harbin Clinic Tony E. Warren Cancer Center. The three story, 55,000 square foot building is located on the corner of Second Avenue and West Fifth Street between Barron Stadium and Floyd Medical Center in Rome.
While already maintaining the lead in providing the latest technology in cancer care to patients of Rome and northwest Georgia, the Tony E. Warren Cancer Center is the premier destination for patient-focused cancer care and support services. With cancer patients in mind, the cancer center is designed to meet patient needs at all points of their care.
Specialties and services located in the cancer center include the offices of our medical oncologists and their Infusion Center; our radiation oncologists and their Radiation Oncology Center with two Varian linear accelerators; an imaging center with a new PET/CT scanner; and a state-of-the-art imaging device for detecting cancer. “The presence of this scanner in the cancer center clearly indicates how this is a community effort, as the scanner is jointly owned by Redmond Medical Center, Floyd Medical Center and Rome Radiology,” said Dr. Davis. Located on the third floor of the Cancer Center is the Floyd Breast Center. There is also a conference center which will host Harbin’s multidisciplinary lung and breast tumor cancer conferences.
Today, Harbin Clinic has grown to include more than 240 medical professionals across more than 37 specialties. The Clinic cares for the health of patients throughout northwest Georgia and into Tennessee and Alabama.