For the media

Legacy of giving began with Sharp’s first hospital

By The Health News Team | May 24, 2024
Wayne A. Neal, Philip L. Gildred Sr., George Scott and Elizabeth Gildred in San Diego

(L R) Wayne A. Neal, Philip L. Gildred Sr. and George Scott break ground on Donald N. Sharp Memorial Community Hospital, now known as Sharp Memorial Hospital, in 1953. Elizabeth Gildred, Philip's granddaughter, continues to give to Sharp today.

Elizabeth Gildred says that she sees all the projects Sharp HealthCare Foundation is working on and is in awe.

As Sharp undertakes ENVISION, a $250 million effort to reshape the future of health care in San Diego, Elizabeth can’t help but think of her grandfather, Philip L. Gildred, who not only chaired the fundraising campaign to launch the San Diego Hospital Association after World War II but also made the leadership gift to purchase the land where Sharp Memorial Hospital currently stands.

"My grandfather would be thrilled seeing what Sharp is continuing to do," Elizabeth says. "The projects stay true to what he and his fellow community leaders envisioned.”

To Elizabeth, Sharp’s humble beginnings were a grassroots effort to enhance the greater San Diego community. “The same spirit exists here today,” Elizabeth says.

The history behind Sharp

San Diego’s population surged between 1940 and the end of World War II in 1945, and a growing community meant there was a need for more medical resources — specifically, a hospital.

In 1949, Philip L. Gildred Sr. made the gift that enabled the San Diego Hospital Association to purchase 12.5 acres of land for the Donald N. Sharp Memorial Community Hospital, now known as Sharp Memorial Hospital.

"He loved San Diego," Elizabeth says of her grandfather. "He knew what institutions needed to be poured into in order to thrive. It was important to him."

The namesake of Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp HealthCare is Lt. Donald N. Sharp, a bomber pilot from San Diego who died at 22 years old in combat during World War II. The groundbreaking for the hospital was in 1953, and the 200-bed hospital opened in 1955.

Five years later, the hospital opened a $1.5 million maternity wing with 60 beds, five delivery rooms and 92 bassinets known as the "Stork Club," where Elizabeth was born. But being born at Sharp Memorial was just the beginning of Elizabeth’s long journey with Sharp.

Maintaining the family legacy

Elizabeth's father, Philip L. Gildred Jr., served as the first chairman of the Sharp HealthCare Foundation Board of Directors.

"My father was there for every groundbreaking, ribbon cutting and board meeting," Elizabeth says. "He was giving his time, effort and passion to continuing the growth of Sharp, and I am very proud of him for that."

In the early 2000s, Elizabeth received care at Sharp for a "very serious" breast cancer diagnosis. “My life was saved here,” she says.

After she recovered, Senior Vice President and CEO Bill Littlejohn asked her to join the board of directors.

"It was hugely intimidating at first," Elizabeth says. "But I listened and paid attention. It was always moving to hear grateful patients come in and tell their stories. And I was a grateful patient. I felt very motivated to give back because of that.”

Philip Jr. is now a chair emeritus, and when Elizabeth joined, their service overlapped. "It was very meaningful to me to share the experience with my father,” she says.

Elizabeth currently serves as vice chair on the Foundation board of directors, helping establish fundraising priorities that align with the goals and mission of Sharp. Among the projects aimed at delivering the future of health care in San Diego are the modernization of the Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus; the expansion at Sharp Coronado Hospital; and the establishment of a world-class neurological center, the Sharp Grossmont Hospital for Neuroscience.

Seeing Sharp HealthCare's growth over the decades fills Elizabeth with joy, not only because she is making a difference but also because of what she thinks her grandfather, who passed away in 1974, would say to her if he were alive today.

"I think he'd tell me he was proud of me," Elizabeth says. "I think Sharp's growth would blow him away, and he would be incredibly pleased that I'm following in his footsteps."

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