The JFK Medical Center was built at the request of Liberian President William V.S. Tubman, whose 1961 visit with U.S. President John F. Kennedy laid the groundwork for USAID funding for a national medical center in Liberia.
The project was funded with a $6.8 million loan and $9.2 million in grants from USAID and a $1 million contribution from the Liberian Government. Construction began in 1965 and the facility opened on July 27, 1971. 
When dedicated, the Medical Center was composed of four institutions:
- John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital
- Maternity Hospital
- Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (a paramedical and nursing school)
- Catherine Mills Rehabilitation Hospital (a psychiatric care facility)