Hospitals as healing centers have been part of society since before the first millennium - almost as far back as civilized history takes us! There was even a chain of hospitals (a group of hospitals owned and operated by the same organization) as early as 230 BC. Some of the earliest hospitals existed in ancient Rome in 100 BC as important centers for the emergency care of sick and wounded soldiers. With the spread of Christianity, hospitals grew as part of the church's mission and became part of the community as they tended to health care not only for soldiers but also for all who needed it. During the Middle Ages, European communities began to take responsibility for their citizens' health care by creating voluntary hospitals.
In 1524, Cortés, built the first hospital in North America. It is called the Hospital de Jesus Nazareno and it still stands in Mexico City (see map.) The first hospital in the United States was a center created in 1663 to treat injured soldiers in New York. The first incorporated hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital, was established in 1751. It is from these early church-and community-sponsored hospitals that today's hospitals have evolved.
A guest house for the ill was established in 1611 at Henricus, a major English settlement near Richmond. Virginia is also home to the oldest medical college building in the South and to the 4th largest university-affiliated teaching hospital in the United States, VCU Medical Center.