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Ignatia Gavin and A.A.
Ignatia Gavin, a tiny Irish-American nun, helped
initiate medical treatment for alcoholics in
Akron. Born in 1889, Sister Ignatia entered
the community of the Sisters of Charity of St.
Augustine in 1914. A trained and talented musician,
she first taught music until she suffered a
complete breakdown. To protect her health, she
was reassigned to St. Thomas Hospital in Akron.
In 1928, she became an admissions officer.
Bob S., who founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Bill
W. in 1935, had been treating alcoholics for years
and often tried to get his patients admitted to Akron
hospitals, especially when they were undergoing withdrawal
and needed medical care. At the time, alcoholism was
considered a moral failing, not a disease, so hospitals
usually refused. Dr. Bob S. had struck up a friendship
with Sister Ignatia and began asking her to admit
his patients. Although against regulations, she admitted
them, usually by claiming they had "acute gastritis."
She placed them wherever room was available and where
they would be out of the way, going so far as to place
them in the "flower room," where the bodies of deceased
patients were kept while awaiting transferral to the
morgue. Eventually, the two obtained permission to
open the first hospital ward ever for alcoholics at
St. Thomas. Dr. Bob attended to their physical needs,
and Sister Ignatia and members of Alcoholics Anonymous
to their spiritual needs.
1952, Sister Ignatia was transferred to St. Vincent
Charity Hospital in Cleveland, where she set up a
new alcoholism ward, Rosary Hall. Patients were admitted
for six days, where they received constant help from
Sister Ignatia and various AA members. It is estimated
that during her career, Sister Ignatia helped over
10,000 alcoholics. She was mourned throughout the
nation when she died in 1966.
Thomas Hospital, Akron, Ohio
the 1920s a Clevelander left a bequest to establish
a Catholic hospital in Akron. From 1922 to 1928,
additional money was raised and a site selected.
St. Thomas Hospital was built in 1928, and staffed
by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.
Like other Catholic hospitals in the Diocese,
St. Thomas was an innovator.
1939 it opened the first alcoholic ward in the country
under the direction of Sister Ignatia Gavin and Dr.
Bob S., one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The hospital grew steadily through the 1950s, 60s,
and 70s, as new buildings and departments were added
to better serve the citizens of Akron. In the 1980s,
an independent board took over control of St. Thomas
and it ceased to function as a Catholic hospital.
In the mid 1990s, St. Thomas merged with Akron City
Hospital to form Summa Health System.
Ignatia's message inspires -Akron woman treasures
book that belonged to late father; A.A. figure signed it
in 1947. by staff writer Jim Carney of The Beacon Journal