Compassionate Care

A History of Excellence in Burn Care

Over decades of innovation in burn care, Shriners Children's has helped patients spread their wings.

Shriners Children’s continues to be a worldwide leader in pediatric burn care

Shriners Children’s is noted worldwide as a leader in pediatric burn care. Since opening our three pediatric burn hospitals in the 1960s, our healthcare system has been at the forefront of innovative programs and treatment techniques that have both dramatically improved the survival rate for children with severe burns and enhanced their quality of life. Here’s a history of how it happened.


In response to the growing awareness of a need for pediatric burn care, research and education, the Shriners organization’s governing body passed a resolution in 1962 to build and operate hospitals specializing in pediatric burn care. The first one opened in 1966 in Galveston, Texas, followed by those in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Boston, Massachusetts, two years later. The establishment of these hospitals helped raise awareness of pediatric burn injuries and the need for appropriate care throughout the medical community. 


Tremendous improvements in survival rates were made, particularly because of innovative research in excision, grafting and intravenous feeding. In addition, pressure garments that helped lessen scarring were developed. Shriners Children’s Ohio pioneered skin banking – a precursor to future methods of tissue, bone and skin procurement. In addition, Shriners Children’s worked with the United States Fire Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission to identify burn prevention programs for schools and fire departments. 

The Boston hospital also began the first school re-entry program to assist patients ready to return to their schools and communities.


Outpatient clinics were added at the three burn hospitals to provide continued care after patients are discharged. Also, researchers at Shriners Children’s discovered that early surgical excision and grafting reduces infections, shortens hospital stays and improves cosmetic outcomes for patients. Shriners Children’s created Burn Awareness Week, a national education campaign, in an effort to raise public awareness and reduce the number of burn injuries in children. 


Services were expanded at our burn hospitals. Care was made available for non-burn conditions such as port wine stains, congenital ear deformities and other complex wound and skin conditions. In addition, new programs were set up to help burn patients with psychological and social issues, including transitioning back to school and community. 

In 1997, Shriners Children’s Northern California opened in Sacramento to serve children with orthopedic conditions, burns and spinal cord injuries. The hospital has become the busiest pediatric burn center in the Western U.S. 


Shriners Children’s continues to demonstrate and be recognized for its leadership in burn care. 

All four burn care locations have had leaders who have served as president of the American Burn Association, and three of the facilities have hosted or co-hosted the World Burn Congress, an annual event of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors that brings together approximately 800 survivors and their families, caregivers, burn care professionals and firefighters to share experiences and support one another.