12.31.2018 Back to News

John Estabrook Passes Away at the Age of 91

During his 41-year tenure, John W. Estabrook transformed Methodist Hospital from a respected 230-bed community hospital to a prominent regional multi-hospital health system.

Estabrook’s desire for health care innovation,
cost-effectiveness and quality quickly positioned Methodist Hospital as a leader in the industry.
He was the foundation of our “meaning of care” culture.

Estabrook passed away on Friday, Dec. 28, at the age of 91. 

A graduate of the University of Omaha, Estabrook began his career as an assistant to the administrator of Nebraska Methodist Hospital in 1951. He proved early on in his career that his ability to build rapport with employees, which earned him respect from all those he encountered, was a trait that would serve him well.

He worked in laundry, ran the switchboard and even operated the elevator when needed. As a result, he learned his most important lesson about hospital administration.

“This is a people business,” he said early in his career. “Not only the patient, which is the primary objective of our service, but all the people involved.”

In 1959, at the age of 30, he was appointed president of Methodist
Hospital. In 1968, Estabrook helped lead the city’s westward expansion by building Methodist Hospital at its present location at 8303 Dodge, when most of the city’s development stopped at 68th and Dodge.

His vision for the health care facility was put into place quickly, with some of his early innovations including:

  • The creation of Nebraska’s first 24-hour emergency room staffed by practicing physicians in 1967.
  • Acquisition of Nebraska’s first linear accelerator in 1968, which together with the cobalt unit made Methodist
    a leader in cancer treatment.
  • Development of the region’s first chemical dependency program for adults and adolescents in 1972.
  • Creation of Nebraska’s first comprehensive computerized medical information system for patient care management and hospital finance in 1974.
  • Creation of Nebraska’s first hospital-operated outpatient surgery and chemical and radiation therapy facility for cancer treatment in 1980.

In 1981, more than a decade before health care systems became popular, he anticipated the need for physicians, hospitals and support service areas to work together more closely to contain health care costs. As a result, he created Nebraska Methodist Health System, the region’s first such health care organization.

The system now boasts more than 25 clinics from eastern Nebraska to Western Iowa and also includes Methodist Women’s Hospital, Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs and Methodist Fremont Health.

From 1981 to 1986, he served as president of Methodist Hospital and Nebraska Methodist Health System. In December 1986, he devoted himself full-time to serving as president of NMHS.

When he retired in 1992, Methodist Health System and its eight affiliate companies employed 3,500 people. In 2006, Methodist Cancer Center was renamed in his honor.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Meaning of Care Magazine Spring 2016: John W. Estabrook: Found of Methodist’s Culture of Caring

Omaha World-Herald: John Estabrook, former president of Methodist Health System, dies at 91