The House opened in 1974, the spark for what would eventually become a global network of Houses and support services with over 275 chapters in 64 countries and regions.
Its co-founder: Dr. Audrey Evans, 93, a pediatric oncologist whose pioneering career is defined by her commitment to healing the whole patient, including the family.
Dr. Evans’ approach may have been unconventional in the 1960s and 70s, but, according to the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, patient- and family-centered care is widely adopted today, changing how hospitals provide care, increasing staff satisfaction, decreasing costs and improving patient outcomes.
Long before the opening of that first House, Dr. Evans recognized the value of bringing the comforts of home to her young patients and also keeping families together during the treatment journey.
She started small – and with some fun – from a bunny keeping a child company during radiation therapy, to a hamster hidden up her sleeve, to a traveling troupe of chirping yellow finches that brought sunshine to hospital rooms.
During her time at Children’s Hospital of Boston as a senior resident in oncology, Dr. Evans adopted this total-care approach, which was also supported by her mentor Dr. Sidney Farber, a pathologist regarded as a pioneer in modern chemotherapy. Dr. Farber kept a drawing on hand that depicted the ripple effect of a sick child extending to a sick family and, ultimately, a sick community.
Dr. Evans recalled this drawing often, even years later when she moved to a new position at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She treated many patients who traveled from afar, but there weren’t sleeping quarters at the hospital for families, leaving one or both parents to find their own lodging. To Dr. Evans, that was unacceptable.
“Mums and dads have to be together … and somewhere that’s more like a home,” says the British-born physician. “I dreamed of a house with spare rooms, with somebody living in the house to make the house run and to be sure there were sheets on the bed and maybe breakfast to eat.
“I said, ‘what I really need is a home away from home.’”