History came full circle yesterday, October 17, as TidalHealth broke ground for the Edward Q. Wilgus Community Clinic, the Salisbury, Md. based health system’s newest primary care practice.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Wilgus family to the TidalHealth Foundation, the new community clinic will be located at 805 E. Church St. on the property currently occupied by the Hotel Esther, a parcel of land with its own significant and historic healthcare connection to the city of Salisbury.
The Wilgus Clinic will be staffed by TidalHealth primary and specialty care providers and serve as a center of care for a neighborhood and a community historically challenged due to a number of social determinants of health. It’s intended to bridge the gap between the neighborhood and healthcare, reconnect residents to resources, stimulate residential development and reduce emergency department usage for general medical needs.
The clinic will also serve as home base for TidalHealth’s resident physicians who are specializing in internal medicine. It is expected to accommodate between 12,000 and 15,000 visits per year.
“TidalHealth is committed to offering accessible, affordable, high-quality medical care for adult patients with a team of experienced and compassionate providers who are dedicated to understanding the unique healthcare needs of our east side community neighbors,” said Steve Leonard, Ph.D., MBA, FACHE, President/CEO of TidalHealth. “The Wilgus Clinic extends our promise to bring healthcare, leadership, mentoring and medical stability to the front doors of those who need it most, but have the greatest challenges obtaining it.”
Along with a full complement of healthcare services for patients over the age of 18, the clinic will also provide community members with telehealth services, behavioral health, lab draws and preventative screenings. Residents will also have access to nutritional counseling, diabetes education, financial counseling, and various support groups.
The Edward Q. Wilgus Community Clinic is being built on a 1.8-acre parcel of land that 130 years ago was developed with the intent of being Salisbury’s first hospital. While the Hotel Esther will soon be razed to make way for construction of the new clinic, its intended legacy will finally be realized.
TidalHealth purchased the land from Salisbury entrepreneur and community philanthropist Bryan LeCompte, who understands and was inspired by the unique history of the property.
Dr. Robert Naylor, an extremely successful English physician, first saw the property advertised in a Philadelphia newspaper while in the states on business. His plan was to build a retirement home there for his wife Maria and their family. He bought it in 1893.
However, upon arrival, it became evident to Dr. Naylor, for which the street is named that borders the Hotel Esther, that what Salisbury needed was advanced healthcare and a hospital. This was also the same time that Dr. George W. Todd was making plans to open Peninsula General Hospital on the west side of the city, which he did in 1897.
Dr. Naylor started with a small clinic in the building and was seeing patients while continuing to work on opening his own hospital. However, he would never live to realize that dream. Dr. Robert Naylor died in 1899, at the age of 69.
The property stayed in the family until 1908. It was sold a number of times, even serving as the first location of the John B. Parsons Home for the Aged. During World War II, it was purchased by a local investor, whose wife happened to be named Esther, who turned the structure into a hotel with additional boarding rooms and a ballroom.
Fast forward to 2021. The Hotel Esther had become a shell of what it once was. Its luster was long gone, but its original vision as a healthcare center was very much alive.
Enter TidalHealth and President/CEO Steve Leonard and then President of the Foundation, Denise Billing. It was always a plan of the health system to locate a clinic in the East Church Street neighborhood, and the Hotel Esther property was the perfect location. “I hadn’t owned the property for even a year and wasn’t looking to sell it, but the idea was intriguing and exciting,” said LeCompte.
They settled on the sale of the property in 2022. “I told Steve that I wanted to memorialize Dr. Naylor’s efforts to create and launch healthcare on the Eastern Shore,” added LeCompte. “This brings it full circle with us building upon his concept and ideas to reimagine his vision.”
For retired neurosurgeon and Immediate Past Chairperson of the TidalHealth Peninsula Regional Board of Directors, Julius Zant, this is a familiar scenario. He, too, grew up in a community where a physician opened a practice just a half block from his home, and had a huge influence on him pursuing a medical career.
“Dr. Chissell’s door was always open: available, accessible, affordable and a role model. I was able to see with my own eyes how medicine should be practiced,” said Dr. Zant. “He inspired me to believe I could do this, too, and being there sent a clear message that he wasn’t going anywhere and would always be a part of my community.”
The ribbon cutting also served a dual purpose as it also launched the TidalHealth Foundation’s “SPARK” campaign. SPARK is an effort to raise $5 million in support of the resources necessary to establish a Graduate Medical Education program at TidalHealth, including the Wilgus Clinic. It’s a “pay it forward” campaign to attract outstanding resident physicians and provide them a place to learn and practice; to become embedded within the community, and once their residencies are completed, possibly choose to stay here.
“We believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality healthcare services, regardless of their background or economic status and philanthropy is the spark that will accelerate this project,” said Jessica Hales, President of the TidalHealth Foundation. “Our team is grateful to the Wilgus family and excited to be a part of the east side community where we will make a positive impact on the overarching health and lives of residents.”
Completion of the clinic is expected in the summer or early fall of 2024.
The SPARK campaign is being co-chaired by Dr. Zant, LeCompte and Dr. Kurt Wehberg. To donate in support of graduate medical education and the growth of medicine in our community, visit tidalhealth.org/foundation or contact the TidalHealth Foundation at 410-543-7140.
Share this Post