New Archives Exhibit: The Hospitals of the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Archives has mounted its latest quarterly exhibit in the Annenberg elevator lobby. This season’s exhibit covers the history of the former Continuum Health Partners hospitals that are now part of the Mount Sinai Health System: Beth Israel Medical Center (now Mount Sinai Beth Israel), St. Luke’s Hospital (now Mount Sinai St. Luke’s), Roosevelt Hospital (now Mount Sinai West) and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (now the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.)

BI Linsky Pavilion Rendering 1000pxThe combined histories of the former Continuum hospitals cover a significant portion of the history of medicine in New York City. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, founded in 1820, is the oldest specialty hospital in the United States and the oldest institution in the present Mount Sinai Health System. St. Luke’s Hospital, which opened its doors to patients in 1858, was the creation of a prominent clergyman, and Roosevelt Hospital was founded in 1868 with a bequest from a member of the distinguished New York family that later produced two U.S. Presidents. The service areas of these two hospitals, which merged in 1979, together encompass much of Manhattan’s West Side. Beth Israel, established on the Lower East Side in 1889 to provide care to impoverished Jewish immigrants, has a long tradition of community-focused medical care, including the nation’s largest nonprofit methadone treatment program.

The exhibit will remain on display until the spring and contains numerous historic photographs and documents from the various hospitals, including an original nineteenth century minute book from the records of the Beth Israel Medical Center.

Pictured: Beth Israel Medical Center’s Linsky Pavilion as depicted in a 1964 anniversary volume.

Music to Our Ears

In the first half of the 20th century, Mount Sinai was apparently full of song.  The School of Nursing students sang every morning before classes and, of course, had an alma mater song for their school.  The Mount Sinai Hospital had no medical school yet, but the active alumni association had festive annual meetings filled with songs and skits and inside jokes.  While much of that material is not suitable for re-publication, the 1921 meeting of the Associated Alumni of The Mount Sinai Hospital did produce what they called an Alumni Song, with words written by Dr. L.M. Lyons and music by Dr. S. Samuels. This serious piece expressed their love of Mount Sinai and the many memories they formed during their training.  Note that the song refers exclusively to the male alumni.  This was because there were very few female alumnae. After a promising start in 1872, women house staff had been banned by the Trustees from 1911-1922.  It was not until 1932 that women alumnae were first invited to the annual Alumni dinners.

Here is the Alumni Song from 1921:

Cover of Alumni Song showing the main entrance to the Hospital on 100th Street.

Cover of Alumni Song showing the main entrance to the Hospital on 100th Street.

Years ago on Sinai’s mount great Moses stood in awe,
And from the hands of God himself received our word and law,
To commemorate this famous deed some noble men with vision
Have built a hospital to stand with just and wise provision.
Humble at birth it’s slowly grown to fair most in our land
It’s sons unite to sing it’s praise and tell its story grand.

Chorus:  Oh, Sinai, Mount Sinai, we venerate your name,
As loyal sons we loudly boast and proudly spread your fame
We tell each deed with fulsome meed of honor and of praise
We’ll ne’er forget the princely debt we owe to Sinai days.

As passing days go piling up and year grows after year,
We’ll turn a page in mem’ry’s book to one we hold most dear,
Again we’ll see our old time friends, as we knew them long ago,

Once more we’ll walk thru Sinai’s wards with faces all aglow.
Time shall drop the heavy load he’s laid upon each heart
And once again our voices joined, the old song we shall start.

Chorus:  Oh, Sinai, Mount Sinai, we venerate your name,
As loyal sons we loudly boast and proudly spread your fame
We tell each deed with fulsome meed of honor and of praise
We’ll ne’er forget the princely debt we owe to Sinai days.