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Medical Firsts

Throughout its combined history, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health has pioneered a number of new treatments and innovations in the Pacific Northwest.

We were the first medical center in the Pacific Northwest to earn designation as a Donor Care Network Center of Excellence by the National Kidney Registry. More than 3,000 kidney and pancreas transplants have been performed at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health since the medical center’s transplant program was established in 1972.

Other firsts

  • The first medical center in Washington state, and among the first in the nation, to offer a new MRI-compatible cochlear implant for people with significant hearing loss

  • Opened the Bailey-Boushay House, the first and only overnight shelter in the country for people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The program, which is a partnership with the City of Seattle, serves up to 50 homeless outpatients with HIV per night

  • The first medical center in Washington state to begin using a new therapy that targets neuroendocrine tumors, an uncommon cancer that affects the intestines, pancreas, lungs and other parts of the body

    A first of its kind “therapy car,” invented here to help orthopedic surgery patients practice the physical motions of safely getting in and out of a car, becomes licensed for commercial production and distribution to physical and occupational therapists around the world

  • First in the Pacific Northwest to use the transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR) vascular procedure to treat carotid artery disease

    One of the first organizations in the region to offer a new gastric balloon weight-loss treatment option for people with obesity

  • First in the region with a new ultrasound system, called the Automated Breast Ultrasound System (ABUS), for cancer screening of dense breast tissue

  • First in the Pacific Northwest to use noninvasive FibroScan technology to evaluate disease stage in people diagnosed with liver ailments

  • The Hip Preservation Program is the first in the Pacific Northwest to offer a multidisciplinary approach to hip care, preservation and treatment for people at every stage of life

    The first medical center in Washington state to offer intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) to treat women with early stage breast cancer

  • The first medical center on the West Coast to offer isolated limb infusion (ILI) for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer

  • The first nonprofit hospital to implement a 100 percent staff influenza immunization goal and a fitness for duty requirement as an important safety effort to save lives

    The first medical center in the Pacific Northwest to offer a drive-through influenza immunization clinic


  • Participated in the first human islet transplant in the Pacific Northwest, resulting from the work of a citywide consortium including Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, the Pacific Northwest Research Institute, Swedish Hospital, University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Puget Sound Blood Center

  • First in state to use da Vinci™ robotic-assisted surgical system for radical prostatectomies and coronary artery bypass surgeries

    First bilateral cochlear implant surgery in the Pacific Northwest

    First in state to use capsule endoscopy


  • First in the Northwest to use LIFE-Lung Fluorescence Endoscopy in early detection of lung cancer in high-risk patients

  • First in the region to use the Mammotome biopsy system for early detection and treatment of breast cancer

  • First use of teleradiology to treat off-site patients

  • First lithotripsy to treat kidney stones

  • First inner-ear implant operation in this region

    First in Northwest to use insulin pump for diabetes treatment

  • First use of electromagnetic imaging

  • First cobalt cancer therapy

  • First hospital west of the Mississippi to give electrocardiogram

  • First in the region to form a school for people with diabetes and for insulin use

  • First deep therapy X-ray

    First to use insulin to treat diabetes in the Pacific Northwest, 1923