Dolly Parton
Knoxvile News Sentinel
May 22, 2007
Dolly putting ladies first at health center
Dolly, arriving in style, breaks ground on a new women's center in Sevier
By Carly Harrington

SEVIERVILLE -- A freestanding women's center named after Sevier County's best known native will be built here alongside a new hospital and cancer center.

Plans for the 30,000-square-foot Dolly Parton Center for Women's Services were unveiled Monday at a groundbreaking ceremony where the country music singer made a surprise appearance, arriving in a 740 Articulated Dump Truck.

"You didn't think I'd come in on a little ol' backhoe, did you?" Parton said as she stepped before an estimated 200 hospital employees, community leaders and donors wearing a white suit that showed off her slender frame and a blue polka-dot hard hat and tie.

"This is a wonderful honor. It really is."

The women's center will house existing services like mammography and bone densitometry, but hospital officials hope to expand its offerings to include such new services as cosmetic surgery.

Parton has pledged a combined $500,000 toward the construction of the 200,000-square-foot replacement hospital from her Dixie Stampede and the Dollywood Foundation.

She also performed a benefit concert before a crowd of about 8,000 on Sunday at Smokies Park, with estimated proceeds totaling an additional $500,000.

Parton is the honorary chair of the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1983 to help improve the quality of medical services in Sevier County. Her $1 million contribution is part the foundation's push to raise $10 million for the new hospital.

The new facility, at 720 Middle Creek Road across from the existing Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center, is expected to be complete by fall 2009 and will have a new name to be announced in about six months, said Ellen Wilhoit, president and chief administrative officer of the hospital.

The $110 million project will feature private patient rooms, a larger emergency department, and a step-down unit for patients who are ready to be moved from intensive care but need more extensive monitoring.

It also will include a Sevier County branch of the Thompson Cancer Survival Center and a medical office building on the same site.

Tony Spezia, president and CEO of Covenant Health, owner and operator of the Sevier County hospital, thanked Parton, calling her a "local girl who has never forgotten her roots and has made an ongoing commitment to women, children and these hills."

Sevier Medical Center has been the sole acute-care provider in the county since 1965. Located on 14 acres, it gets more than 80 percent of its inpatients from Sevier County.

Covenant officials have said the county's growth, ranked one of the fastest in the state, and its large tourist population has made it necessary to replace an old, outdated hospital building.

"I'm ready. I've got my shovel," Parton said just before she and more than a dozen others prepared to break ground on the new hospital. "Here's to a wonderful, wonderful dream."