After six years of planning and construction, the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center opened its doors at 50 Irving Street, NW during a dedication ceremony held on April 28, 1965.

Touted as the VA’s first state-of-the-art hospital that would go on to become the designated forerunner for contemplated VA hospitals across the United States, the medical center became one of the most automated hospitals in the country and possibly the world.

Opening the doors to its first patients on May 3, 1965, the five-level structure consisted of four-wings radiating from a central hub, more than doubling the bed capacity of its predecessor, the 40-year-old Mt. Alto Hospital.

The hospital began a historical journey that would continue to keep it at the forefront of innovation and medical firsts in the VA.


In 1972, a two-floor research building was completed and dedicated in September of that year. After many contributions to research in organ transplants, development of battery and atomic-powered heart pace-makers as well as a comprehensive study on hypertension, building a research building at the medical center was a “no brainer”.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held in September 1982 to begin construction on a 120-bed nursing facility at the Washington DC VA Medical Center. At that time, it was estimated that by 1990 every four Veterans would be over the age of 65. The nursing home would care for Veterans of six counties in the states of Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The medical center begins one of the largest pacemaker surveillance programs in the country. More than 4,000 veterans spanning 28 states were monitored by telephone.

In 1995, the Washington DC VA Medical Center became the first VA hospital to discontinue use of Ethylene Oxide gas as a means of sterilizing surgical instruments. This process was replaced with the use of plasma. Not only was this more cost effective, it cut sterilization time from 16 hours to four hours.

The 21st century started off very newsworthy for the medical center. From articles such as “Best Care Anywhere: Why VA healthcare is better than yours” to being the first hospital in the U.S. to employ a fully-automated version of mVisum’s mobile EKG-monitoring application, we continue to be recognized as a H&HN Most Wired Hospital. From outstanding cardiology surgery to new treatments in Mohs surgery, DC VA Medical Center employs a number of outstanding medical, nursing and administrative professionals.

VAMC Hospital Entrance tulips

In 2014, the medical center opened its Women’s Health Pavilion, which specializes in providing comprehensive health care with gender-specific services including state-of-the-are 3-D mammography.

We are caring for all Veterans of all eras and of all socio-economic groups. Our 24/7 Community Resource and Referral Center offers primary and mental health care, vocational rehabilitation as well as community resources and referrals through partnerships and collaborations throughout the DC area.

We have expanded health care by co-locating community clinics with military bases and installations. The two newest community-based outpatient clinics are located in Southern Prince George’s County, Maryland near Joint Base Andrews and our Virginia clinic on Ft. Belvoir. We are meeting the needs of Veterans in their own neighborhoods, and expanding the use of Telehealth to make health care even more convenient.

We are spreading information on VA health care programs and services as well as resources and benefits on our weekly radio show, Veterans and Community Health Sunday Magazine.

In 2015, as we celebrate 50 years “Caring for Our Nation’s Veterans” at 50 Irving Street, the Washington D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center continues to blaze the medical trail ensuring Veterans receive quality health care and service excellence.

This story was originally published on the DC VAMC website.

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Published on Apr. 28, 2015

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