The Birth of Obstetrics at Mount Sinai West

November is an important month in the life of Mount Sinai West. The Hospital’s founder, James H. Roosevelt, was both born on the 10th in 1800 and died on the 30th in 1864. Additionally, the Hospital’s doors opened on the 2nd in 1871. And in November 1964, the then Roosevelt Hospital inaugurated its first Obstetrical Service. Prior to this such a service was deemed unnecessary as its neighbors included the Sloane Hospital for Women and the Nursery & Child’s Hospital. However, in 1928, Sloane moved uptown to join the new Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and in 1934, Nursery & Child’s merged with New York Hospital, leaving an obstetrical service vacuum on the west side of Manhattan.

Hints of change started in July 1955 when Roosevelt Hospital’s President of the Board of Trustees, Garrard B. Winston, died and bequeathed nearly $4 million to the hospital. The Trustees decided to use the bequest to fund a much needed new building that would be named after Winston to honor his dedication to the Hospital. The construction of the building began in 1958, after demolition of the original Administration Building was complete.

In October of 1958, The Ambrose Monell Foundation presented the Hospital with a gift of one million dollars to construct an obstetrical floor and establish a much needed Obstetrical Service. The gift was arranged through Board member Edmund C. Monell, as a memorial to his mother, the late Maude Monell Vetlesen, who served as an honorary member of the Board of Trustees from March 1956 until her death in May of 1958. Mrs. Vetlesen also had a particular interest in obstetrical care. Occasionally its place in the training of physicians and nurses was the topic of conversation between her and several hospital professionals with whom she had an acquaintance. The floor would be called The Maude Monell Vetlesen Maternity Pavilion.

In 1961 the cornerstone was laid for the 12-story Garrard Winston Memorial Building. At the end of that year, Dr. Ralph W. Gause was appointed the first Chief of the Obstetrical Department. He began the process of building the department so it would be ready for full time operation when the Winston Building was opened.

The Winston Building opened in September of 1964, and the Obstetrical Department was inaugurated in November of that year. When in full operation, the OB Department expected to care for about 125 deliveries a month, and included antepartum and postpartum clinics. The first birth, a boy named Daniel Winston Maurer, took place on November 17th, and was celebrated with the gift of an engraved silver cup, as was the first girl’s birth when Doreen Ann Dichiora was born a few days later. There were 20 more deliveries by the end of that year. In 1965, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology completed its first full year with a record total of 1,004 gynecological operations and 597 deliveries.