Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, Galveston Burns Institute

By: Megan Seaholm

Type: General Entry

Published: February 1, 1996

The Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, Burns Institute in Galveston, Texas, is one of three children's burn centers in the United States supported by the Shriners of North America. In 1962 the Shriners allocated $10 million to establish three institutes for the care and rehabilitation of burned children, related research, and the training of medical personnel. At that time thermal injury was a major cause of death and disability among children, and there were no special facilities for treating these burn victims. After visiting twenty-one university medical schools, the Shriners decided to locate the first pediatric burn unit in Galveston in affiliation with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Galveston was selected because of the prestige of Truman G. Blocker, Jr., then chairman of the Department of Surgery at UTMB, and the impressive burn service that he and his colleagues had developed. The Shriners Burns Institute-Galveston Unit began operation in a seven-bed ward in John Sealy Hospital, the teaching hospital for UTMB, on November 1, 1963. In 1966 the institute moved to a new facility on the medical school campus, and in 1992 the Galveston Burns Institute occupied a new building connected to the Child Health Center of John Sealy Hospital. Patient care is provided in thirty private rooms, fifteen for acute burns and fifteen for reconstructive care. Other expanded and improved facilities include three operating rooms, six recovery beds, an outpatient department, playroom and schoolroom areas, a 163-seat auditorium, and laboratory and research areas. Four rehabilitation-status living units for families and children preparing for discharge are also provided in the new building.

The Shriners of North America sustain the institute financially; no payment is required from patients for any of the services provided. UTMB provides the medical and scientific staff. The institute also receives grant monies for research from private foundations and governmental agencies. The institute is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals and employs more than 300 people. The physicians and scientists at Shriners Burns Institute in Galveston have made significant contributions to the field of burn therapy, including the development of special splints and pressure garments to reduce disability and disfigurement. It was also largely due to their efforts that the Texas legislature enacted the nation's first law requiring children's sleepwear to be flame retardant in 1972. The Shriners Burns Institute in Galveston is one of the largest burn centers in the United States. As of 1991 more than 8,500 children from forty-three states and thirty-seven foreign countries had been treated at the institute. In 1991, 186 acutely burned children were admitted; 31 percent had burns covering 20 percent or more of the total body surface area. Also in 1991, 406 children were admitted for reconstructive surgery. The mortality rate at the institute has consistently been lower than the national average. In 1967 the mortality rate was 14 percent, remarkably lower than the national average of 20 to 25 percent for acutely burned patients. In 1991 the mortality rate was 1.6 percent.

Galveston Daily News, May 6, 1984. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: Past, Present, Future (Galveston: University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 1966). The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: A Seventy-five Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Health and Medicine
  • Hospitals, Clinics, and Medical Centers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Megan Seaholm, “Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children, Galveston Burns Institute,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996

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