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Durham hospital turns 30

There was only one place to go Saturday night to see some of North Carolina's most important medical officials dancing the electric slide with performers in brightly colored spandex pants-Durham Regional Hospital's Pearl-Anniversary Gala held at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club.

The event brought together approximately 500 people to celebrate the hospital's 30 years of medical service to the Durham community.

"This partnership between Durham Regional Hospital and Duke Hospital-this family-is so important to our community," said Dr. Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. "If you consider what we've been able to do together... [in] a place by which we all want to do the right thing, which is serve the Durham community. it's really quite amazing."

The gala featured a live jazz band, an open bar and a raffle for a $2,500 pearl necklace.

Costumed dancers from New York-based entertainment troupe LeMasquerade performed numbers from popular Broadway hits when they weren't mingling with the audience and enticing guests onto the dance floor.

Although the bash featured many tributes to the hospital's storied past, the future of DRH was also on the minds of those who attended.

"While we celebrate what's happened in the past 30 years, I'm even more excited about what's going to happen in the next 30 years. We have a tremendous opportunity to build on the successful relationship we have now," said Dr. William Fulkerson, chief executive officer of Duke University Hospital and chief medical officer for the hospital and Private Diagnostic Clinic, making reference to the partnership between the hospital and DUHS.

"We continue to have a system in Durham that's second to none.. We have a tremendous future," he said.

The gala also served as a fundraiser for the hospital's intensive care and critical care units, and by the end of the night, more than $25,000 had been raised for new medical equipment and renovations, said Katie Galbraith, DRH director of marketing and corporate communications and one of the planners of the event.

The units have not been significantly refurbished since the hospital opened 30 years ago, she explained.

As past and present hospital employees dined on gourmet cuisine, many spent the night reminiscing about the changes DRH has undergone during its 30-year existence.

There were several guests at the gala who had been with the hospital ever since its incarnation as Watts Hospital-one of two community hospitals that were combined to form Durham Country General Hospital in 1976.

The hospital changed its name to Durham Regional Hospital in the 1990s but it was not until 1998 that the hospital became part of DUHS.

Its affiliation with DUHS led to some major alterations, including improved access to cutting-edge medical technology, said James Amos, marketing and corporate communications coordinator for DRH, who started working at the storeroom of Watts Hospital 32 years ago.

Amos, who also helped plan the gala, said he has seen the hospital go through many transformations-most of them for the better.

"When we actually merged Lincoln and Watts hospital together, that was a major undertaking for the city-you were taking two hospitals, there was one that was predominantly white and one that was African-American, and putting the two together with employees, styles and techniques that were all very different," he said.

Duke had a history of collaboration with DRH even prior to the hospital's incorporation into the health system, said Ruby Wilson, assistant to the chancellor and dean emeritus of the Duke School of Nursing.

Wilson recounted one instance where Duke nursing students swapped places with nursing students at Watts Hospital to experience a different aspect of obstetric care.

The incorporation into DUHS brought a second transformation to the hospital, Amos said.

"It's definitely changed for the better because you take Durham Regional Hospital, which is a smaller hospital than Duke, [and] rather than being competitive with the hospital next door you use them to enhance your services," he said.

Despite all the transformations DRH has gone through it is still as in tune with its mission and identity now as it was 30 years ago, Wilson said.

"There certainly have been some differences and changes but I still think Durham Regional has pretty much kept its identity as Durham Regional Hospital serving the community of Durham-which I think is as it should be," she said.

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