In days past, as the weather warmed up, thoughts of the staff and residents would turn to St. Luke’s annual Field Day outing at New Jersey’s Englewood Country Club, held every summer.
During Field Day, the usual barriers of position, age, and authority were disregarded during an afternoon of hotly contested athletic events (softball, golf, and tennis, etc.), followed by a very casual dinner.
Evening offerings were often films created by actor/director wannabe’s, Drs. Harry Roselle and Theodore Robbins and the various colleagues they could rope in to help. One year’s offering was a Dr. Kildare meets Dracula at St. Luke’s horror flick titled, “Anemia of Uncertain Origin.” Another was a spy thriller called “Aardvark,” imitated the popular 1960s TV comedy, ‘Get Smart,’ in which Mervin Long, Secret Agent 95.6, battled Aardvark, a Fu Manchu-type enemy who developed an infamous blood sludging device; Agent Long would unvaryingly save the day at the last moment.
Each year’s outing was documented with a panoramic photograph of attendees. These photos are usually between four and six feet long, and have proven to be a challenge to store in the Archives! We have over fifteen of these images, which arrived tightly rolled up, requiring re-hydrating in a makeshift hydrating tank before flattening for storage. They are available for viewing for those who wish to walk down memory lane. (Notice that the attached photo was cut in two in order to be printed in the former newsletter, The News of St. Luke’s. The image on top is the left half and the image below is the right side. Recognize anyone?)
Unfortunately, one year in the early 1970s the event was cancelled when it was discovered that those of the Jewish faith were excluded as members to the club, and it was not picked up again in following years.
In days past, as the weather warmed up, thoughts of the staff and residents would turn to St. Luke’s annual Field Day outing at New Jersey’s Englewood Country Club, held every summer.
The trials of life can crush one’s spirit or force one to overcome and create something exceptional out of the rubble. Mary Breckinridge, a 1910 St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing alumna, is a fine example of later. Born into a Kentucky family of influence and means, Breckinridge was well educated and well-traveled. She was married in 1904 and widowed by 1906, at age 26. She then completed St. Luke’s nursing program and worked teaching French and hygiene in an Arkansas women’s college. In 1912, she married the president of that school and had two children with him, but her daughter was premature and did not survive; her son died suddenly two years later at age four.
Additional struggles broke the marriage beyond repair and she left her husband in 1918 and worked as a public health nurse while awaiting a posting with the American Red Cross in France. She arrived there after the armistice of WW I and helped to initiate a program to provide food and medical assistance for children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women. While in France, she also spent time in England, observing the conditions of children and mothers there, and became convinced that American women in rural areas would benefit from the help of trained midwives. Ad educational visit to Scotland demonstrated how to provide medical care to a dispersed population.
Returning to the United States, she relocated to Leslie County, Kentucky, which had the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Here Breckinridge, pictured left, introduced nurse-midwives into the region with the founding of The Frontier Nursing Service in 1925, eventually bringing maternal and neonatal death rates down well below the national average. In 1929, The Frontier Nursing Service staff started the American Association of Nurse-Midwives, a precursor of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the first American school of midwifery in New York in 1932. Mary Breckinridge served as director of the FNS until her death on May 16, 1965.
In today’s world, the only way to check into a hospital, without an emergency, is for a doctor to arrange for some kind of test or surgical procedure. But in the 19th century, hospitals functioned a bit like today’s walk-in clinics, at least in regards to admission. A person could come to the Hospital, speak with the Admitting Physician and request treatment for ‘X’ problem. But there were rules governing who would be accepted or refused.
By 1859, St. Luke’s published the first of their annual reports, which included reports from the Board President, The Pastor/Superintendent and the House Staff, along with lists of donations, occupations and diseases of those treated, and the publication of rules – for staff for patients and for visitors, and for Admission. Admission rules separated out patients with certain diseases. Those with contagious diseases were refused admission – this was a common practice for private hospitals at this time. The 1904 annual report is the first year the Hospital reported which applications were declined under the Rules of Admission, and their numbers. Ten persons were declined admission due to contagions like Erysipelas, scarlet fever and scabies.
Another group – the chronic or incurable – included paralytics, rheumatics, the mentally ill, incurable cancer patients, and those with an opium habit or delirium tremens, where also refused admission. Chronic cases in acute attack might be accepted, but were discharged once they returned to the ordinary health of one in that condition. Incurable cases might be admitted, but “only at the discretion of the Executive Committee of the Hospital.” These were also probably discharged as soon as they regained what was ordinary health for that condition. In 1904, 128 cases were refused admission to St. Luke’s for one of these reasons.
One exception to the rules was pulmonary consumptives (tuberculosis). In the 19th century, consumption was considered a hereditary disease, rather than a contagious one. The 1859 report of the Board of Managers, explains, “To provide for the incurably ill, particularly of this class, was one of the objects of the Hospital, and therein to supply an urgent want in the community… there was no resort for consumptives, so numerous in our climate, that St. Luke’s, as a church institution, felt bound to open to them her doors.“
The woman’s tuberculosis ward at St. Luke’s Hospital, circa 1900
The Pastor’s report often notes the comfort, and at times cure, these patients received, and their expressions of gratitude. In 1891, nine years after the discovery of the tubercle bacillus by Dr. Robert Koch, St. Luke’s accepted control over the House of Rest for Consumptives in the Tremont section of the Bronx, eventually moving all its patients to the main hospital and selling the property to support their care. Throughout the years annual reports note that consumptives made up to a quarter of the total census of patients in any given year.
These rules on admission disappeared early in the 20th century as hospitals’ ability to recognize and control germs was established, and as out-patient clinics opened to treat patients that might not have been admitted to the Hospital’s care in prior years.
As we look forward to a new year, I wanted to reflect on Mount Sinai’s remarkable historical milestones, honor our collective past, and celebrate those who make the Icahn School of Medicine and the Mount Sinai Health System what we are so proud of today.
2023 is a banner year as we mark the tenth anniversary of the Mount Sinai Health System’s creation. Among many pivotal moments described below, some highlights include trailblazing women, the evolution of psychological and substance use treatments, several otolaryngology milestones, and ways we have supported each other and our communities.
These milestones only highlight a selection of round number anniversaries.
We have so much to recognize in 2023, and the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Archives staff will be hard at work providing information and materials to support these celebrations!
1823 – 200 years ago
- New York Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Dr. Rodgers travelled to Curaçao at the request of the island’s Rear Admiral Governor, to perform surgery in what might be called ophthalmology’s first international goodwill mission.
1863 – 160 years ago
- During the New York City Draft Riots of 1863, one of the “bloodiest race riots in American history,” rioters besieged St. Luke’s Hospital for 48 hours, threatening to set the building on fire as it had received three injured policemen. Founder Reverend William Muhlenberg met an injured rioter brought to the front doors and was able to calm the protestors, who began to disperse.
- In the geographic center of the Draft Riots, Jews’ Hospital in New York (later The Mount Sinai Hospital) was “the asylum for their dead and injured. An eventual result for the Hospital was its adoption of the nonsectarianism [sic] which has been its policy ever since.” In caring for riot victims, Jews’ Hospital staff witnessed the particular terror and brutal violence inflicted upon Black people. (see post for further information)
- James Henry Roosevelt died, leaving his estate for “the reception and relief of sick and diseased persons, and its permanent endowment…” which then created Roosevelt Hospital.
1873 – 150 years ago
- New York Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Throat Department was established, forerunner of the Head and Neck Service.
1898 – 125 years ago
- During the Spanish-American War, the hospitals treated troops ill with typhoid and other epidemic diseases. Roosevelt Hospital’s Ward V was turned over to the U.S. Department of War. St. Luke’s Hospital set aside 30 beds. The Mount Sinai Hospital cared for 44.
- An Act of the State Legislature of 1897 established a law to give The Mount Sinai Hospital 40 cents per day for each charity patient. Costs were then $1.33 per day, about $33 today.
1913 – 110 years ago
Sophie Rabinoff, MD, became the first female intern on the house staff at Beth Israel Hospital after “triumphing over thirty men in a competitive examination.” Initially told by the hospital that women are not eligible for appointment, the hospital later agreed to allow her to sit for the examination, at which she came in first place.
1923 – 100 years ago
The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Medical Board recommended, and Board approved that “patients suffering from mental disturbance … as well as those suffering from the minor psychoses and from functional nervous trouble, may be admitted to the Neurological Service.”
Mount Sinai Hospital statistics for 1923: 12,104 patients treated; average census 505; length of stay 15.7 days; days of care 183,863; average daily cost of ward patient $5.64; 8,261 ER visits.
Leila C. Knox, MD, became the first female Attending Physician of any level at St. Luke’s Hospital. Hired in 1913 as an assistant and bacteriologist, she retired in 1948 as Pathologist, Director of Laboratories and Associate Attending Physician, and was recognized for her work as a tissue diagnostician.
1938 – 85 years ago
Mount Sinai Hospital’s Robert T. Frank, MD published an article The Formation of an Artificial Vagina Without Operation in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on his non-surgical vaginoplasty technique to create or enlarge a vagina. He had been working on the subject for many years and had published in 1927 an article advocating for non-surgical methods with Dr. S.H. Geist.
1948 – 75 years ago
- Beth Israel’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Departments are merged into a single department; Dr. Henry C. Falk was Director.
- The residency program in Urology at Beth Israel was approved by the American Medical Association and the American Board of Urology.
- The Mount Sinai Hospital welcomed its first residents in Psychiatry.
The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Special Medical Clinic, an outpatient diagnostic center, was established for lower income patients, paid half of consultation service fees.
1953 – 70 years ago
Woman’s Hospital officially merged with St. Luke’s becoming Woman’s Hospital Division of St. Luke’s Hospital. Established in 1855, Woman’s Hospital was the result of a meeting of thirty-five influential New York City women gathered by Dr. J. Marion Sims who conveyed New York’s need for a hospital to treat gynecological diseases.
1958 – 65 years ago
Doris L. Wethers, MD, began working at St. Luke’s Hospital. The first Black Attending Physician, she was Director of Pediatrics from 1974 until 1979, when she became the principal investigator on a major research project studying sickle cell anemia. She also served as chairwoman of an NIH panel that recommended routine testing for newborns regardless of race or ethnicity.
1973 – 50 years ago
- St. Luke’s-Roosevelt’s Smithers Alcoholism Center and Rehabilitation Unit opened (now the Addiction Institute of New York). Funded by R. Brinkley Smithers, who pledged a $10-million gift for the treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholics in 1971, it was the largest single grant ever made by an individual or agency, including the Federal Government, to address alcoholism.
- United States Senator Walter Mondale held hearings on child abuse at Roosevelt Hospital; the following year, Mondale initiated the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
- Mount Sinai’s Department of Community Medicine received a grant to develop a primary care health services system for the children of East Harlem. The program later served as a model for other urban settings.
- Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing admitted its first male student.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine held its first classes in the Annenberg Building; the rest of the building opened slowly floor by floor after this.
1988 – 35 years ago
- Beth Israel Medical Center establishes a 12-bed inpatient unit for AIDS care.
- An AIDS unit at the Roosevelt Division site opened, providing 25 beds and augmented the St. Luke’s site AIDS unit which had 24 beds.
1993 – 30 years ago
- A Letter of Agreement was signed formalizing the affiliation of Astoria General Hospital (predecessor of Mount Sinai Queens) and The Mount Sinai Medical Center.
- Beth Israel created the Alfred and Gail Engelberg Department of Family Medicine and a residency program, the first in a Manhattan hospital, in conjunction with the Institute for Family Health (IFH), led by co-founder Dr. Neil Calman. IFH later affiliated with Mount Sinai and created the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the Icahn School of Medicine.
- For the first time, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine graduated more women than men, also a first in New York State.
- Women faculty members of Mount Sinai School of Medicine formed the Women Faculty group to address issues of concern to the including pay equity, discrimination, participation by women in internal decision-making bodies, limitations on career advancement, parenting and schedule flexibility issues, and the underlying sexism that informs these issues.
- Beatrice and Samuel A. Seaver Center for Research and Treatment of Autism created in The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry.
1998 – 25 years ago
- Center for Multi-Cultural and Community Affairs (CMCA) was established to increase underrepresented minority groups in medicine, adding to the diversity of the School and the Hospital, and to Mount Sinai’s effectiveness in serving the ethnically and racially diverse communities of East Harlem, Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, and the rest of New York City. Positioned as the interface for educational pipeline programs such as CEYE and SETH, Minority Affairs, institution-wide diversity initiatives, academic supports for medical students, and other initiatives within the School of Medicine, it was founded under the leadership of Gary Butts, MD in the Department of Medical Education.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Beth Israel and participated in a conference at the Hyman-Newman Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery called “Researching the Health Actions of Advanced Meditation: A Landmark East/West Medical Conference.” The conference was co-convened by Tibet House and Beth Israel Medical Center with the participation of Columbia University.
- The James P. Mara Center for Lung Diseases was dedicated at Roosevelt Hospital. Gerard M. Turino, MD is the founding director; funded by $2 million donation from The Carson Family Charitable Trust.
- Mount Sinai School of Medicine students organized the first memorial service for cadavers used in gross anatomy class.
- Announcement of establishment of the Mount Sinai-NYU Medical Center and Health System.
- Continuum Health Partners, Inc. was selected as new name for Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt parent company.
2003 – 20 years ago
- Dr. Kenneth Davis, Chairman of Psychiatry, officially becomes Dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Board subsequently approved Davis as President.
- Master’s program in Community Medicine changed from that of a Master of Science degree to a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.
2008 – 15 years ago
The Brain Institute was created (now Friedman Brain Institute). Eric Nestler, MD, PhD became the first Director when he joined Mount Sinai to become the Chairman of the Fishberg Department of Neuroscience.
The Ear Institute at NYEE opened, which centralized the ear specialty services of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, Beth Israel Medical Center, and the Children’s Hearing Institute.
2013 – 10 years ago
- On September 30th, the approval and official creation of the Mount Sinai Health System was announced, and the Board was considered formed. Press release stated: “The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education.”
- Icahn School of Medicine announced the formation of a new group, Women in Science and Medicine.
2018 – 5 years ago
- Boards of Trustees of South Nassau Communities Hospital and the Mount Sinai Health System formally approved an affiliation agreement.
- Mount Sinai Heart opened a new ambulatory practice at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s. The Center for Clinical Cardiovascular Care at Mount Sinai Heart offered a suite of specialty services for comprehensive and integrated cardiovascular patient care, including Cardiology, Cardiac Surgery, and Vascular Surgery, in one location.
Additionally, the following departments, institutes, committees, centers, collaborations, and other initiatives have reached a landmark year:
- Department of Emergency Medicine in the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Academic Department)
- Center for Multicultural and Community Affairs
- Minimally Invasive Surgery Center (MISC)
- Wound Care Center
- Diabetes Center
- Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder Center for Maternity Care
- Brain Institute (now the Friedman Brain Institute)
- Experimental Therapeutics Institute (now the Drug Discovery Institute)
- Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute (now the BioMedical Engineering and Imaging Institute)
- Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute
- Minority Health Research Committee
- Statistical Advisory Service
- Office of Clinical Research
- Office for Women’s Careers
- Patient-Oriented Research Training and Leadership (PORTAL) program
- OCD, Tic Disorders, and Tourette’s Disorder Team
- Mount Sinai Health Network
- East Harlem Health Outreach Project (EHHOP) Advisory Board
- Center for Advanced Circuit Therapeutics (now the Nash Family Center)
- Affiliation with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Authored by J.E. Molly Seegers with research contributions for Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West by Michala Biondi and for Mount Sinai Beth Israel by Stefana Breitwieser
In years past, as the weather warmed up, the staff and alumni looked forward to renewing old acquaintances and socializing with colleagues from across the hospital’s departments. This blog post will highlight the three main traditions of spring, mention their roots and how they evolved.
The first event was the annual alumni dinner, which gathered all the graduates of the Resident training program together to enjoy a good meal, good conversation, and informative lectures. The Society of the Alumni of St. Luke’s Hospital of New York City was established in 1891 and was formed with the intent to “foster collegiality and scientific discourse and to honor accomplished colleagues at an annual dinner.”
In 1896, Roosevelt Hospital ‘ex-interns’ met at the hospital to plan the twenty-fifth anniversary of its opening and organize The Roosevelt Hospital Alumni Association. Its stated purpose was “…maintaining loyalty to the institution and promoting its broader usefulness.” Unfortunately, the Archives does not have any photos documenting their celebrations over the years.
Every June during the 1960s, St. Luke’s Attendings invited the Residents to join them for a “Field Day.” Held at New Jersey’s Englewood Country Club, the usual barriers of position, age, and authority were ignored during an afternoon of hotly contested athletic events (softball, golf, and tennis, swimming, etc.), followed by a casual dinner and evening entertainment.
Evening offerings were often films created by actor/director wannabes, Drs. Harry Roselle and Theodore Robbins and the various colleagues they could round up to help. One year’s offering was a Dr- Kildare-meets-Dracula-at-St.-Luke’s horror flick titled, “Anemia of Uncertain Origin.” Another was a spy thriller á la a 1960s TV comedy favorite titled ‘Get Smart,’ called “Aardvark,” in which Secret Agent 95.6, battled Aardvark, a Fu Manchu-type enemy who developed an infamous blood sludging device.
Each year’s outing was documented with a panoramic photograph of attendees. These photos, usually between four and six feet long and about ten inches high, have proven to be a challenge to store in the Archives. About ten of them arrived, each individually tightly rolled. They required re-humidifying in a makeshift humidification tank in order to relax the paper enough to allow them to be flattened for storage. They are available for viewing for those who wish to walk down memory lane.
In case you, dear reader, are curious, the Field Day photo was cut in two in order to be printed in the former newsletter, The News of St. Luke’s. The images used here were scanned from the newsletter because the originals are too large to fit on current in-house scanners. It may also be of interest to note that the dinner photographs, whose originals are two to three feet long and eight to ten inches high, were taken with a fish-eye camera, which has curved lenses to allow the whole room to fit into one image. The author is not sure what equipment was used to capture the huge Field Day images.
Unfortunately, one year in the early 1970s the event was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, and it was not picked up again in the following years.
The final big spring event for many years was the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing graduation ceremonies held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, just south of the Hospital. Nursing students would line up at the Hospital and proceed down Amsterdam Avenue, marching up the front steps to enter the Cathedral and take seats at the front while their families observed the ceremonies from behind them. At the end of the ceremonies the graduating class would pose for a group photo on the Cathedral steps.
The above images, taken from the News of St. Luke’s newsletter, are of the graduating class of 1955; the image below shows the graduating class of 1974, the year the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing program closed its doors and merged with the Columbia University School of Nursing Bachelor of Science program.
Roosevelt Hospital also had a School of Nursing, founded in 1896. At first, students were accepted on a rolling admission any time, and as students successfully completed the required coursework, diplomas, graduate caps and pins were awarded with little fanfare in the Administration Building. By the 1920s a formal cycle of classes developed, and graduation was set at a fixed time of year. At first, ceremonies were held in the Syms Operating Room, and later, as the number of students grew, the ceremony was moved to a hotel ballroom. Unfortunately, the Archives does not have images from the Roosevelt Hospital School of Nursing graduations, and like St. Luke’s, the hospital-based school also closed its doors in 1974, but the Alumni Association is still fairly active and enthusiastic about staying connected.
Michala Biondi for the Aufses Archives.