History of Watson Clinic
In the summer of 1941, a medical group comprised of two surgeons, two internists, and a urologist officially became known as Watson Clinic. Led by Dr. Herman Watson, their mission was to provide the very best healthcare to the people of Polk County and beyond.
From these humble beginnings, Watson Clinic has developed into one of the largest and most respected clinics in the Southeast. Their mission remains unchanged.
THE DAWNING OF A DREAM
The history of Watson Clinic begins with a group of esteemed physicians, known as our “Founding Fathers,” who dedicated their lives to the medical field. They named the company in honor of one of the physicians in their group -- Dr. Willis Herman Watson.
Dr. Watson was born on a farm in Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia School of Medicine in 1912. He continued with various postgraduate studies throughout the United States and stayed on in France for a year to further his studies after serving in World War I. Having already established his own practice in Lakeland before he left for the war in 1917, he returned to the area in 1920 and resumed his practice of general medicine with an emphasis on surgery.
Dr. Herman Watson founded Watson Clinic in 1941 and retired in 1954.
His nephew, Dr. Samuel Edgar Watson, was also a graduate from the University of Georgia and completed his internship at Knoxville General Hospital. “Dr. Edgar” joined his uncle’s practice in 1935 followed in 1938 by Dr. Jere W. Annis, who had completed his fellowship in Internal Medicine at the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota. Drs. Henry Fuller and John Kibler joined the practice three years later in 1941, at which time the physician group officially became known as Watson Clinic.
GROWTH AND PROGRESS
Watson Clinic initially operated within the Marble Arcade Building in downtown Lakeland.
At the conclusion of the 1940’s, Watson Clinic decides to move their facility to the annex of the Thelma Hotel in downtown Lakeland.
Watson Clinic kept their offices rooted in the downtown Lakeland area for much of their early history, initially operating out of limited space in the Marble Arcade Building before moving across Kentucky Avenue into the annex of the Thelma Hotel. Robust growth eventually warranted the construction of a unique and expansive medical facility. On July 12, 1958, the Clinic transferred from its modest space on 122 South Kentucky Avenue to their new and elegantly constructed quarters at 1600 Lakeland Hills Boulevard, a location that still acts as their Main Clinic campus to this day.
An artist’s rendering of our Main Clinic at 1600 Lakeland Hills Boulevard upon its construction in 1958.
In response to the needs of our community and the ongoing progressive nature of the health care field, Watson Clinic continued to recruit physicians from the best medical schools in the world and expand their roster of specialties and locations.
Their work within the community soon reached far beyond Clinic walls, leading to the formation of The Watson Clinic Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Watson Clinic LLP, in 1960. The foundation continues its mission of building a healthier community to this day through educational outreach, tireless research and free screening programs.
The burgeoning reputation and scope of the Clinic operations set the community standard for excellence in healthcare. In 1969, Watson Clinic became the first clinic in the United States to be accredited by the American Association of Medical Clinics (AAMC). In 2005, they received a prestigious three-year accreditation from the Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Health Care, a feat they have repeated every three years since then. Their orthopaedic department is one of the most renowned in the area, treating a number of top shelf community sports teams, including the Detroit and Lakeland Flying Tigers baseball organization.
Watson Clinic now touches every corner of the community with 18 additional regional sites, including family practice locations in Bartow and Plant City and dermatology offices in Sun City Center and Zephyrhills. Other medical offices include Highlands, XpressCare at Highlands, Bartow Gynecology, Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, Bella Vista Building, Center for Rehabilitative Medicine, Kidney Center, Behavioral Health Division at Edgewood, South Lakeland, North Pediatrics, and more.
Watson Clinic Cancer & Research Center, located at 1730 Lakeland Hills Boulevard, opened in 2003.
The Center for Cancer Care & Research, opened in 2003, was a collaborative venture with Clark and Daughtrey Medical Group and the area’s finest independent physicians. The Center, which is affiliated with the nationally recognized H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, specializes in the prompt detection, diagnosis, and supportive follow up care of patients with cancer and hematological disorders, and provides comprehensive access to a multitude of cancer services including the latest treatment options and clinical research trials. In 2013, following the 10th anniversary of the Cancer Center, Clark & Daughtrey was purchased by Lakeland Regional Medical Center and moved out of the Center for Cancer Care & Research. This allowed Watson Clinic to rename the facility as Watson Clinic Cancer & Research Center.
In 2016, the cancer center became one of only a handful of facilities in the entire nation to receive gold status reaccreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, as well as Florida’s sole recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award from that same prestigious organization.
Watson Clinic’s Women’s Center offers expert women’s breast services, including the latest in digital mammography and breast surgery technologies.
The Watson Clinic Women’s Center, located on the corner of Parkview and Lakeland Hills Boulevard, opened in September 2006. The Women’s Center offers superior digital mammography, breast surgery and plastic surgery services, and the most comprehensive and compassionate women’s care in the area.
Watson Clinic’s Bella Vista Building, which opened in February of 2009.
In February 2009, Watson Clinic unveiled the Bella Vista Building, a three-story, 51,000 square foot medical office building offering otolaryngology, facial plastic surgery and dermatology services, as well as a hearing center, speech and pathology lab, and a private medical spa.
Two walk-in clinics opened in 2011 in the South Lakeland area – Watson Clinic XpressCare at Lakeland Highlands and Merchants Walk. These locations are open to first-time patients and established patients ages 2 and up, and require no appointment for the treatment of minor illnesses or injuries.
Watson Clinic has branched out beyond the Lakeland region with two dermatology offices in Zephyrhills and Sun City Center and a family practice and pediatrics location in Plant City.
Watson Clinic Highlands, which opened in September of 2015.
Watson Clinic Highlands rests on nine acres of land located on E. County Rd 540A, a quarter mile east of the 540A/Lakeland Highlands Road intersection. Phase One, which opened for patient appointments on September 28, 2015, features 38,000 square feet of space across two floors and includes the relocation of services that were residing in leased space in the Highlands Square Plaza on the corner of 540A and Lakeland Highlands Road.
Services at the new location include Dermatology, OB-GYN, Otolaryngology (ENT)/Facial Plastic Surgery, Primary Care, Hearing Center and XpressCare walk-in services. Expanded radiology capabilities, including CAT scan, DEXA bone density scanning, x-ray, ultrasound and 3D mammography, an on-site laboratory and room for future growth.
Watson Clinic Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine offers exceptional services to patients in south Lakeland, Bartow and surrounding communities.
First opened in September of 2016, this exciting facility located in the heart of south Lakeland provides a rotation of board-certified specialists from our team of orthopaedic surgeons and sports medicine physicians, the expertise of our physical therapists and physician assistants, and an inventory of the most highly advanced rehabilitation technologies in the industry including the Anti-Gravity Treadmill®.
It also brings Watson Clinic’s team of orthopaedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists in closer proximity to many of the school teams they serve from this area, and it’s more convenient for our existing patients who reside on the south side of Lakeland.
Bartow Gynecology provides comprehensive women’s healthcare to residents of Bartow and surrounding areas.
Adjacent to our existing Bartow location, and headed by board-certified obstetric-gynecologist Dr. Tarek Garas and his team of highly trained providers, Watson Clinic Bartow Gynecology opened in October of 2016. This facility serves the healthcare needs of women of all ages, including routine gynecologic examinations, contraceptive management, and treatments for irregular bleeding, pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, painful bladder syndrome, and issues brought on by conditions like osteoporosis and menopause.
A LEGACY OF CARING
Watson Clinic’s commitment to the community has remained constant since their humble beginnings in 1941. As medical advancements have developed new and exciting possibilities, Watson Clinic has led the way by continuing to offer the latest innovations in technology and research.
Watson Clinic provides unparalleled excellence in healthcare for every generation.
With a total staff of more than 1800 employees, over 300 physicians and providers, 40 diverse medical and surgical specialties and 19 state-of-the-art locations serving close to a million outpatient visits every year, Watson Clinic remains well equipped to treat any ailment you are likely to experience in your lifetime. Their reputation remains far-reaching and nationally respected.