Tuberculosis was so much a part of the early days of Colorado Springs history, well documented as people came here to be treated in a sunny clime.
However, there’s even more to this city’s role in early medicine: pioneering work in radiation treatment leading the way to a major cancer hospital.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Foundation is telling the story in a new documentary, “The History of Penrose Cancer Hospital Featuring Dr. Juan del Regato,” produced by Chris Valentine. Premiere night Sept. 18 in the Broadmoor Theater was a special time with hospital founder del Regato’s daughters Ann Jaeger and Nita Peters and many doctors he had trained and worked with before his death in 1999.
Josh Bailey, head of the foundation, and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services President/CEO Dr. Brian Erling introduced the video and included the history of Penrose Hospital, which was started as a TB sanitorium that evolved into a full-service hospital. Cancer was treated but became even more of a focus after Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose had state-of-the-art treatment for throat cancer in Paris in 1932. He and wife Julie, major local philanthropists, reached out to bring top radiation treatment specialists such as Henri Coutard here to treat local patients. Penrose died in 1939 when the cancer returned.
In 1949, Dr. Juan Angel del Regato, Cuban born and educated in Paris, became the highly respected founding director of Penrose Cancer Hospital. He was a published author who was considered the historian in the cancer field and was an expert in radiology. Doctors, clinicians and students traveled from across the country to learn from him.
Julie Penrose made it all happen, said Bailey and Erling. “We wish we all had someone like Julie Penrose.”
Plans are to show the documentary in the Penrose Cancer Center.