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History of TIRR Memorial Hermann

One of the First Polio Treatment Centers in the Nation

TIRR can trace its roots back to the early 1950s when polio was at the height of its epidemic in the United States. At the beginning of that decade, William A. Spencer, M.D., established one of the first polio treatment centers in the nation in Houston. The Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center was dedicated to patient treatment and research and performed groundbreaking work.

Dr. Spencer was notably involved in developing the physiograph, a device recognized in the March 1954 issue of LIFE Magazine for its ability to record vital functions. This technology advanced teaching and research efforts and is credited as an early example of the sophisticated monitoring systems we use today.

With the discovery of the polio vaccine in the 1960s, the expertise developed by this nationally recognized respiratory center was applied to rehabilitating catastrophically injured patients. Much of what was learned in treating polio survivors would prove very valuable and applicable to other disabling injuries and illnesses.

Group Photo from TIRR's History

Financial Gifts

Financial gifts from prominent Houston philanthropists made it possible to build a not-for-profit hospital in the Texas Medical Center, just east of its medical school partner, Baylor College of Medicine. On May 30, 1959, the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research was formally dedicated and began accepting patients. In 1978, the hospital changed its name to The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research.

One of the Best Rehab Hospitals in the Nation

Known today as TIRR Memorial Hermann, this leading institution has been named as one of the top 5 rehab hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report every year that rankings were published. TIRR Memorial Hermann continues to be guided by the principles and philosophies originally established by the Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center. Dr. Spencer changed the way society and healthcare responded to disability and rehabilitation. Today, TIRR Memorial Hermann changes lives by improving outcomes, offering hope and maximizing independence for those impacted by disabling injury or illness.

Prometheus Unbound

"Man uses the tiniest strengths for the greatest purposes.”
— William A. Spencer, M. D., February, 1958