Celebrating with Cigars

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Classes began on September 9th, and on October 20, 1968 there was a day-long celebration to dedicate the School and inaugurate Dean George James, MD as the first President of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. As part of this special day, there was a colloquium in the morning with four Nobel Prize laureates speaking about the future of medicine. (The papers presented by the speakers were later published in the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. They are available here .) In the afternoon there was the dedication of the School and the inauguration of Dr. James. In the evening there was a banquet held at the Grand Ballroom at the Hotel Commodore.

Cigar order for the Dedication Day banquet

The Aufses Archives has several files about the planning and creation of this big event and how it all came together over a few short months. No detail was too small for the organizers to organize, as evidenced by an invoice for 1,000 cigars to be sent to the hotel from the 21 Club (founded by the brother of Mount Sinai Trustee I. Robert Kriendler). Today we would be shocked if a hospital passed out tobacco products but the 1960s were a different time. Still, already the tide was turning. In March of 1968, the Trustees’ Executive Committee had voted 8 to 5 to ban the sale of cigarettes at Mount Sinai, but it was not until 1989 that areas of the Hospital started to be designated as smoke free. This was the result of action by the Student Council of the School, with the support of the Dean’s Office, and then working with the Hospital administration and the Medical Board. What was seen by some at the time as difficult to implement is now viewed as a simple idea whose ‘time had come.’

A button created by Mount Sinai students to encourage the institution to go smoke free, 1989