W.C. Heiam Medical Foundation

Dr. Heiam

Born in 1898, William C. Heiam arrived in Cook in 1926, shortly after graduating from medical school.

Acting on a lifelong dream to open a medical facility in a remote and underserved region, he opened the Cook General Hospital in 1932. Open until 1959, the Cook General Hospital served the residents of both Cook and outlying areas as well as the many loggers, hunters and tourists who frequented the wilderness and remote-access areas surrounding the community.

Dr. Heiam was well known for his willingness to treat anyone, regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay. He often accepted deer meat, wild rice and other local goods in lieu of payment.

In the 1950s, Dr. Heiam realized that his facility no longer met state and/or federal regulations and that the area required a larger and more advanced hospital. At the time, federal money was available through the Hill-Burton Act of 1946. The only catch was that the federal government would pay for only 45 percent of the total cost.

In order to raise the money, Dr. Heiam and others employed many traditional as well as unorthodox methods such as boxing matches, variety shows, the Ashawa Summerfest and the “Name that Island” contest. In the end, the community raised the $380,000 it needed, and the new hospital opened on October 26, 1959.