San José Clinic in Houston’s Medical Mecca

By Grace Conroy

Registered nurse Carol Wolkk and Sister Margaret Bulmer take care of a young patient at the San José Clinic in 1986. Photo courtesy of San José Clinic.  

Children are frequently seen chasing one another and laughing loudly, without a care in the world, but some children cannot partake in such simple pleasures. This was the case for one little boy in Houston’s Mexican community who had a club foot, destined only to watch his friends cherish their playtime, until something short of a miracle occurred. When visiting Houston’s Mexican Clinic, now the San José Clinic, a surgeon’s kind offer to operate on the boy’s foot changed the trajectory of the child’s life. When the little boy later attended the clinic’s Christmas party, he was seen romping around with the other children, gleefully enjoying the holiday, no longer held back by the club foot. The boy’s surgery in 1927 foreshadowed future successes for the clinic, changing tens of thousands of lives, as it took advantage of advancing medical technology, expanding community partnerships, and twice moving to new and larger facilities in the decades to come.

Finding a New Home

Along with adapting to advancing technologies in the post-World War II era, other changes occurred at the San José Clinic in the early 1950s. The Missionary Sisters of Immaculate Conception had managed the clinic since 1946 but now felt the need to turn their full attention to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Houston’s Fifth Ward, which they also managed. Bishop Wendelin Nold appealed to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word to run the clinic, and they took over June 1, 1954.

The San José Clinic location at 301 Hamilton Street opened to patients in 1956, providing a larger state-of-the-art space for its patients and volunteers. Interview participants for this project who remembered the facility described it with utmost affection. Photo courtesy of San José Clinic.

At the same time, an increase in patients and the status of disrepair at the clinic’s 1909 Canal Street location made it difficult to keep up with demand. So when the highway department planned to take the land for the Eastex Freeway, the clinic arranged to move. From 1954 to 1956, it relocated temporarily to two apartments in the nearby Clayton Homes housing project at 1919 Runnels. During this time, thanks to a generous $160,000 donation from the Scanlan Foundation, a new clinic was built at 301 Hamilton Street, providing more space for patients and new equipment as well as facilitating better service. The new clinic occupied 4,600 square feet comprised of twenty-six rooms in a fire-proof, air-conditioned building – a “magnificent” building compared to the prior “shabby” model, the Houston Chronicle reported

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To learn more about the San José Clinic’s mission, click on the following link.
Learn more about the San José Clinics admittance into the internationally renowned Texas Medical Center in 2017.

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