In the 1880s, Topeka, Kansas flourished as a bustling center for agriculture, commerce, and transport. Boasting Victorian architecture and the dynamism of a rapidly evolving frontier town, Topeka embodied the spirit of westward expansion.
Reverend Thomas Hubbard Vail, a Virginia native, epitomized this era. Graduating from a Connecticut college and studying in New York City, Vail became the first Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas in 1864. After two decades in Topeka, he recognized the need for the city's inaugural hospital. With his wife Ellen, he donated 10 acres of land, resulting in the completion of the two-story, 24-patient Christ’s Hospital in May 1884.
Jane C. Stormont, an influential Topeka figure, shared Vail's vision. The widow of a respected doctor, her philanthropic spirit led to the establishment of the 25-patient Jane C. Stormont Women’s Hospital and Training School for Nurses in the city's historic Potwin neighborhood, just blocks away from Christ’s Hospital.
After several decades, and multiple expansions of each respective building, a merger took place between the two hospitals in 1949. The merger birthed the Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center, maintaining the founders' legacy at its present location between 8th and 10th Avenues, west of Washburn Avenue.
A few years after the merger of the hospitals, Dr. Robert O’Neil began a private practice in Topeka in 1951. Five years later, he joined prominent Topeka doctor, Dr. Robert Cotton to create Cotton O’Neil Clinic. Dr. O’Neil was said to have the business acumen and vision for growing the clinic, while Dr. Cotton was considered a “doctor’s doctor.” The two had a natural synergy, working well together for the next several decades, growing the Cotton O’Neil Clinic into a prominent physician clinic and the largest in the area. Cotton O’Neil Clinic & Stormont-Vail HealthCare would merge in 1995. Today, the Cotton O’Neil Clinic operates under the Stormont Vail Health umbrella.
With a legacy spanning over a century, Stormont Vail Health has firmly established itself as the preeminent healthcare provider in Northeast Kansas. Operating as a locally governed, not-for-profit health system, their dedicated team of 5,700 members embodies a commitment to excellence. Extending their care across 18 Kansas counties, including Riley County, they've diligently served hundreds of thousands, earning trust through unwavering dedication and innovative practices.
Stormont Vail has long planned to expand its presence in Manhattan, given its status as the home of Kansas State University and one of Kansas' fastest-growing cities. While the Cotton O’Neil Manhattan Clinic had been open for some time, the concept of having an ambulatory, outpatient Stormont Vail Health clinic in Manhattan was a process that was years in the making.
The ideal site for the clinic was identified on the Kansas State University campus, and seven acres were soon secured in the K-State Research Park. Plans were meticulously laid out and on the brink of execution—then the pandemic intervened. With the organization channeling its focus, resources, and efforts toward adapting to the new healthcare landscape, the new building project momentarily hit pause.
When conditions stabilized, construction commenced at the site atop the North Manhattan Avenue hill in August 2021. Under the guidance of Kendall Construction, this cutting-edge, three-story, 70,000-square-foot facility took nearly two years to complete. Gradual occupancy began in July 2023, culminating in an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony held in August.
Amidst the construction of the Manhattan campus, a pivotal development unfolded within the organization: the former Geary Community Hospital in Junction City was acquired, now known as the Stormont Vail Health Flint Hills Campus. Situated 23 miles from the Manhattan campus, this rural hospital fortifies the organization's regional operations, enabling a more seamless delivery of services across the expansive Flint Hills region.
The future of healthcare in the Little Apple is poised for a transformative shift with the introduction of this new cutting-edge clinic. Dr. Robert Kenagy, President & Chief Executive Officer of Stormont Vail Health, succinctly describes the facility as "kind of an in-between." This description delineates its unique positioning, bridging the gap between a traditional hospital setting and what people conventionally envision as a clinic.
This cutting-edge facility heralds a revolutionary change in medical services, harmonizing groundbreaking technology with exemplary patient care. Encompassing an extensive spectrum of medical specialties, patients can anticipate advanced diagnostics and personalized treatment plans. The facility houses numerous providers, specialists, and subspecialists offering a gamut of services, including behavioral health, cardiology, and even neurosurgery. Through a strategic alliance with the Manhattan Surgical Hospital, Dr. Matthew Wills, M.D., and his adept team of advanced practice providers, nurses, and technicians can now provide neuro-surgical solutions in Manhattan—an exemplary addition among the many superior services enhanced by this new campus.
Dr. Kenagy, a native Kansan and family medicine physician, stands as a paragon of leadership at Stormont Vail Health. Since assuming the helm in April 2019, he has displayed an aptitude for imaginative and unconventional problem-solving, hallmark traits of his leadership style. Guiding the organization through the pandemic alongside senior leadership and the board of directors, he orchestrated the acquisition of Geary Community Hospital and envisaged establishing a clinic on the Kansas State University campus.
Since its inception as the nation's first operational land grant University in 1861, Kansas State University (KSU) has remained dedicated to pioneering research and innovation. As a pivotal hub for education and outreach, KSU addresses societal challenges, particularly those prevalent in healthcare. This makes the strategic partnership between Kansas State and Stormont Vail Health a seamless fit.
Adjacent to the new Manhattan Campus lies the latest addition to K-State’s College of Health & Human Sciences, Mary & Carl Ice Hall. This state-of-the-art facility, boasting 10,000 square feet of training space, serves as an ideal venue for the Physician Assistant (PA) Program partnership. Recognizing the indispensable role of advanced practice providers in the current healthcare model, the collaboration facilitates clinical rotations across all Stormont Vail facilities and supports a cutting-edge simulation lab within the Hall. This partnership extends beyond the PA program, as K-State and Stormont Vail forge ahead to expand their joint efforts in research and diverse healthcare education opportunities.
A key consideration of the new campus is the emphasis on comfort, recognizing its pivotal role in enhancing overall healing and emotional well-being. The ambiance exudes tranquility, with ample natural lighting and thoughtfully designed spaces in the three-story open lobby. Radina’s, a locally owned coffee shop that’s open to the public, complements the atmosphere with its invigorating scent of freshly brewed coffee—a cherished staple for visitors. Every floor and department boasts local, high-quality landscape shots by Tim Sigle & Sigle Photography and a captivating 360-degree view of the surrounding Flint Hills—a testament to the meticulous planning that went into constructing this facility.
The most standout feature of the new Stormont Vail Health Manhattan Campus, however, is the convenience of having a comprehensive array of services right here at home. Residents have easy access to top-notch medical care, cutting-edge facilities, and a diverse range of healthcare services right here in Manhattan. “There’s power in keeping patients around home,” said Mary Martell, Vice President & Regional Administrator. “Our goal is to keep people home, and in their home community. Their outcomes are better. It’s more affordable. It’s more convenient for them. Also, you’re around your friends and family, and that’s the best part. Plus, your neighbors can bring you a casserole!”
It's an undeniable truth that the best casseroles are savored in the comfort of one's own home. Thanks to the new Stormont Vail Health Manhattan Campus, these casseroles will never taste better.