Our History

No matter how you choose to give, your generosity helps Mahaska Health Foundation deliver exceptional patient care and support to ensure the best health for our community and beyond.



The first known doctor in Mahaska County was Dr. Joseph F. Smith. He came to the area in 1841.

In 1872 a group of physicians came together to create the first Mahaska County Medical Society. The purpose of this Medical Society was to be purely professional and for mutual improvement of the physicians involved. Often times they discussed remarkable cases with the sole purpose of learning from each other.

One of the biggest challenges for physicians at that time was impure water, no antiseptics and food wasn’t readily available to keep their patients healthy.


Did you know that Mahaska Health started a school for nurses in 1908!

*Thank you State Historical Society of Iowa for the picture of Oskaloosa nurses from 1918.


In 1910, then named City Hospital, began a practice of sponsoring a “donation day” to help fill the needs of the organization. They took in cash and supplies. Some of the items requested and donated were: Live chickens, canned fruits, sheets, fresh vegetable, dishes, candy, washcloths/ towels, and of course money!

Today, in 2020, we do not take any live chickens, but your investment into Mahaska Health is always appreciated!


In the 1900’s more and more patients were coming to Mahaska Health for care, but doctors still made house calls. They traveled all over the countryside to care for the sick and deliver babies. Nearly all of the births occurred at home and sometimes the Doctors would be there for hours or over night waiting for the birth to occur.
Pictured above is Dr. F. A. Gillette in 1913. He is getting ready to drive his car and make a house call.


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Mahaska Health participated in the “Candy-Striper” program. Area high school girls could volunteer their time after school to assist the nursing staff. Some of their duties were to make sure the patients had fresh water, empty waste baskets, and assist with transfers of patients.

The candy stripers got their name from the red-and-white pinafores that female volunteers traditionally wore, which look like candy canes.

*Pictured is Mrs. Ethel Taylor in 1964 with five students from Oskaloosa High School in the candy-striper program, along with a student who was in the nurses’ training program.



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