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Geisinger History

About Geisinger Health System

Geisinger Health System is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development of innovative care models such as ProvenHealth Navigator® and ProvenCare®.


As the nation's largest rural health services organization, Geisinger serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. The physician-led system is comprised of more than 20,800 employees, including a 1,000-member multi-specialty group practice, seven hospital campuses, two research centers and a 448,000-member health plan, all of which leverage an estimated $6.1 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy.


The health system and the health plan have repeatedly garnered national accolades for integration, quality and service. In addition to fulfilling its patient care mission, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org, or follow the latest Geisinger news and more on Twitter and Facebook.

Abigail A. Geisinger

History of Geisinger Health System

About Abigail Geisinger

Born and raised in Danville, daughter of a wagon-maker, Abigail A. Geisinger was a down-to-earth woman of average education and life experiences.


But some force engendered in her the indomitable spirit, the forthrightness, and the clarity of vision that led her, at the age of 85, to build a hospital that ultimately became Geisinger Health System. "Make my hospital right; make it the best," she demanded of Harold L. Foss, MD, the young physician she chose for her first surgeon-in-chief.


Dr. Foss shared her vision and brought to it the professional expertise that would change the dream to reality. Trained at the Mayo Clinic, he had become committed to the concept of group practice, where specialty-trained physicians worked together to benefit their patients. Mrs. Geisinger concurred.


It was a bold step in the early 1900s that has made Geisinger Medical Center the largest rural health care facility in the United States.

Harold Leighton Foss, MD

Harold Leighton Foss, MD, formed and guided the Geisinger Hospital through its first 43 years and pioneered modern rural health care administration. Dr. Foss was born on St. Valentine's Day, 1883 in Malden, MA. He studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, in 1909, received his medical degree with honors, from Jefferson Medical College.

Harold Leighton Foss, MD

Dr. Foss interned at Philadelphia General Hospital and, from 1910 to 1912, practiced medicine and surgery in a tiny Alaskan hospital at the edge of the Arctic Circle.


He first met Mrs. Abigail A. Geisinger in 1913 and helped her to lay her plans for the George F. Geisinger Memorial Hospital and, ultimately, for what would become Geisinger Health System.


When the hospital opened in 1915, Foss was the first surgeon. In those early days, he later recalled, he "cared for typhoid patients, delivered the babies, performed all manner of surgical procedures - helped drive the ambulance, experimented with the electric light plant, fluoroscope stomachs and colons, met with the board, engaged new help, ordered supplies."


Out of the operating room, as the hospital's superintendent and chief of staff, Dr. Foss became a prototype of the twentieth-century healthcare executive.


Throughout his years at Geisinger, he maintained a two-fold commitment to good medicine, a commitment that meant putting the best medical equipment in the hands of the most skilled medical people. Before embarking on his long career in Danville, he had served a 20-month fellowship as chief assistant to Dr. William Mayo, and he never wavered from the start the Mayo brothers gave him in medicine and medical administration. To the end of his life, he kept a photograph of "Dr. Will" in his office as a reminder of the way he felt medicine should be practiced. As an acknowledgment of his own medical distinction, Dr. Foss received many honors, including the presidency of the American College of Surgeons.


During the Foss years, Geisinger's structure and staff grew dramatically from its original 70 beds, until his retirement in 1958 when it had more than 300 beds, more than 500 employees and admitted more than 11,000 patients a year.