Munson Health
Munson Healthcare History

beginnings of Munson Medical Center

James Decker Munson, MD

 A leader in care for the mentally ill and in establishing a vision for care for Traverse City and the surrounding region.
The beginnings of Munson Medical Center can be traced to James Decker Munson, MD, who donated a boarding house for use as a community hospital in 1915. Later to become known as Munson Medical Center, the hospital was northern Michigan’s first general hospital, and was organized as the hospital division of the State Psychiatric Hospital. The facility has grown from 21 to 391 licensed beds, and is the largest hospital in the region. Through the years, Munson Medical Center has grown and improved services, including the first open-heart surgery on July 3, 1990. It is thought that this procedure was the beginning of the many regional services now provided by the Munson Healthcare system.

Though Munson Medical Center became affiliated with Kalkaska Memorial Health Center through a management agreement in 1976, it wasn’t until 1985 when Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital in Frankfort affiliated with Munson Medical Center that Munson Healthcare was officially organized as a system of health care providers.

The Munson Healthcare System now includes Munson Medical Center, Charlevoix Area Hospital, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, Mercy Hospital Cadillac, Mercy Hospital Grayling, Otsego Memorial Hospital, Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital, and West Shore Medical Center. Munson Healthcare employs more than 6,500 people, and as a regional, non-profit system, it offers a continuum of health care services for communities across 24 counties.

About Dr. Munson

Born June 8, 1848 on a farm in Oakland County, Dr. James Decker Munson was a well-known humanitarian, medical scientist, and horticulturalist. Dr. Munson graduated from the University of Michigan School of Medicine in 1873 at the age of 25. His exceptional talent in medical school quickly established his reputation in the Detroit area, where he practiced as a neurologist/ psychiatrist. Within just five years of graduating, he was appointed as the Chief Medical Assistant of the newly-built, Eastern Michigan Asylum in Pontiac.

In 1881, the state chose Traverse City as the site for the Northern Michigan Asylum, where Dr. Munson was selected as the new Medical Superintendent in 1885. On arrival he found a vast area of untilled, stump-covered land. With his farming upbringing and experience, he cleared the land and planned its landscaping and beautification.

Dr. Munson was one of the first to believe that mental asylums should be for the treatment of patients, not just for warehousing the mentally ill. It was this belief that led the way for the natural environment of care he created for his patients, and originated the idea of therapeutic work for the mentally ill, who worked on the hospital farm.

Dr. Munson’s practices of compassion and dignity can be found in the values of every Munson Healthcare employee today, along with his pioneering spirit as we continue to provide the highest quality care with the latest in health care technology.