The Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives is pleased to share that we recently received a 2023 Digitization Project Grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) to digitize a selection of material from the Mount Sinai Beth Israel collection. METRO’s Digitization Project Grant is designed to support digitization projects for METRO members to enhance the quality and accessibility of library and information resources in the metropolitan New York region. The selection for this grant will be the largest body of digitized materials related to Mount Sinai Beth Israel (MSBI) to date.
Selected material spans from across the history of MSBI. Beginning as a form of Jewish mutual aid to care for marginalized workers and their families living in tenements, the hospital grew to treat and research many of the most pressing issues of the time and the history of the hospital is deeply intertwined with that of the neighborhood. Over its 133-year history, this has included caring for the sick during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918; the development of the Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program in the 1960s, one of the first ever methadone clinics; being an early responder in treating and caring for patients during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s; and responding to the present COVID-19 pandemic. The Beth Israel records broadly document the history of the hospital, and the digitization of this material will allow Beth Israel to be more easily included in historical research related to the broader scope of healthcare in metropolitan New York. At the grant period’s end, more than 7,000 pages of material will be newly available through our catalog.
A big thank you to METRO for their support! You can learn more about past grant recipients and their projects here.
Authored by Stefana Breitwieser, Digital Archivist
This week (December 4-10, 2022) is National Handwashing Awareness Week. As we all know, hand hygiene is a critical component of clinical care and patient safety. In this post we’ll be looking at handwashing campaigns at Mount Sinai Beth Israel over the years. (Click on the images for a larger view, or see the links below to view the item in our catalog.)
For more information about former Beth Israel locations, see the Building Beth Israel series. An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here.
The start date of an institution seems like a clear-cut fact, but often the records that would ideally shine a light on this milestone are actually a bit murky. The founding of the Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai Beth Israel (PSON) is a great example of this historical ambiguity.
During a recent reference request, I had the opportunity to research the establishment of PSON more fully. I spent hours poring over the Beth Israel Board of Directors minutes tracking down this information. Reading through this material was extremely time consuming – the minutes are handwritten in large, loopy cursive, and most entries didn’t even have a passing mention of the school. (When one meeting had discussion about the Hospital purchasing a typewriter, I felt like it wasn’t a moment too soon!)
The earliest mention of nursing at Beth Israel Hospital is in the Board of Directors minutes of April 25, 1891, when a nurse applied for a position at the Hospital as it prepared to move to its new space at 196 East Broadway, and was hired to begin working on May 15 of that year at a salary of $23 per month (about $730 today). These early years at Beth Israel (established 1890) were marked by financial precarity, and it was noted in July 1891 that the Hospital must “limit itself to accepting ten patients for the foreseeable future, these to be serviced by 2 nurses only, one doctor, one cook, and if the Hospital would also reduce other expenditures…the institution would survive.”
In the years following, an added concern was hiring nurses who were trained. As was a common model for the time, Beth Israel Hospital opened its Training School for Nurses to supply the hospital with a fixed number of student nurses, who provided most of the nursing service to inpatients and were supervised by a smaller number of trained, professional nurses. We know that the school first opened at the Jefferson and Cherry Streets location with a two-year curriculum – but when exactly?
The minutes reveal only a rough outline of the founding of the school. The first mention of it was on October 11, 1898, when the idea was referred to the Medical Board in conjunction with the Board of Directors, Training School Committee. The committee consisted of two members, “Hurwitz and Fleck[?].” Two months later, the committee wrote a proposal for the school, and on March 7, 1899, it was officially established.
The school wasn’t mentioned again in the minutes for three full years, and renewed interest coincided with the hospital’s preparation to move to the Jefferson and Cherry Streets location. On March 4, 1902, the committee “was instructed to proceed at once with the necessary arrangements for nursing in the new hospital” in addition to “other work” as assigned. On May 6, 1902, the committee reported that “requests for the recommendation of a Supt. Of Nurses have been sent out and that the German Hospital recommended a Mrs. Chapman[?].” (German Hospital was renamed to Lenox Hill Hospital in 1918.) This superintendent of nurses would have supervised the student nurses during their training.
Finally, the minutes from late 1902 imply that the student nurses had begun their work. On October 7, November 11, and December 9, 1902, the minutes state that the nurses’ quarters were “insufficient”, and it was moved to find a better place to rent for them. The November minutes also reflect some logistical challenges around finding the right number of nurses per ward. There’s no definitive school start date mentioned.
The unprocessed Phillips School of Nursing records also have materials related to the hundredth anniversary of the school taking place in 2004. Did these celebrants have access to historical documentation that is not present in the Archives? It is difficult to say. The celebration, called “A Century of Caring,” honored the ten graduates of the first class in 1904: Rose Bergen, Elizabeth Berman, Fannie Finn, Rose Goldman, Rose Hyman, Julia Meyers, Lena Rabinowitz, Sophie Reichin, Elizabeth Stein, and Minnie Vogel.
By carefully reading the Board of Directors minutes, searching through PSON’s own records, and seeing the institution’s own conception of its anniversary year – all this taken together – we’ve concluded that the Beth Israel Hospital Training School for Nurses was established in 1899, with the first class beginning in 1902 and graduating in 1904. We feel that we can more reliably count on these dates than in the past, and hope that this account supplies helpful context to the archival labor that goes into these historical understandings.
An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here. See the Building Beth Israel series for more information about the history of MSBI.
The 1950s ushered in an era of rapid construction and growth for Beth Israel Hospital that would last for nearly two decades. The footprint of the Hospital during this time rapidly expanded and a number of new buildings were erected to accommodate the hospital’s growing services.
This began in 1952, when the cornerstone was laid for the Charles H. Silver Clinic at Beth Israel Hospital. The building, which was created as an outpatient clinic, would open the following year. According to the Board of Trustees minutes, it was named for Charles H. Silver because “[h]is labors, his vision, and the inspiration he has given to his colleagues have been a major contribution to the development of this great institution so that it holds a ranking position as a haven of healing, a sanctuary of science, a temple of the art of medicine.” (The Archives have additional images of Silver online here.)
On March 26, 1954, Nathan D. Perlman Place was dedicated as a tribute to the memory of the former Beth Israel Hospital Vice President, who had also served as a member of Congress. (The street was formerly named Livingston Place.)
The cornerstone was laid for a residence for Beth Israel School of Nursing students on East 16th Street on September 9, 1958. (At this time, the School of Nursing was located in the Dazian Pavilion, and the location of the new building was previously a parking lot.) At its opening, it was called Fierman Hall. Attendees of the ceremony included Senator Jacob Javits and Governor Averill Harriman, the latter of whom used it as an opportunity to criticize Senator Javits for the lack of funding by the federal government for college student housing. Mayor Robert Wagner, then-gubernatorial candidate Nelson Rockefeller, and Gustave Levy (in his capacity as the President of the Jewish Federation of Philanthropies) were also in attendance. When the building opened on September 25, 1960, there was space for 154 student nurses.
Fierman Hall’s location on East 16th Street was short-lived. Due to swelling class sizes, the space was no longer adequate for the growing School of Nursing. In 1965 alone, the incoming class size almost doubled to a hundred new students, up from sixty, and the School was recruiting six new faculty members. A new student residence, also named Fierman Hall, was dedicated at 317 East 17th Street on September 18, 1966. Senator Javits once again attended the ceremony. The new Fierman Hall on East 17th Street housed between 260 and 300 nurses (sources conflict on this number), as well as classrooms and lecture halls. Together, this allowed for an increase in class size. The first Fierman Hall on East 16th Street was renamed the Karpas Pavilion and it was repurposed for patient care.
The expansion of Beth Israel Hospital did not end there. By the end of the 1960s, the campus would grow to include the Linsky Pavilion, the Bernstein Pavilion, Baird Hall, and Gilman Hall. The history of these buildings will be featured in an upcoming post.
A history of the ambulance service at Roosevelt Hospital, today’s Mount Sinai West, is available here. See the Building Beth Israel series for more information about the history of Mount Sinai Beth Israel. An interactive map of Beth Israel historical locations is available here.
National EMS Week is May 15-21. In this blog post, we’re celebrating by looking back at a brief history of emergency medical services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
The first ambulance service began at Beth Israel Hospital in 1906. It first used a horse-drawn carriage, later switching to automobiles in 1915. During this early period, ambulances were manned by members of the house staff, including Nettie Shapiro, MD, the first female house staff at MSBI in 1909.
By 1984, Beth Israel was “the first voluntary hospital in New York City to have attending physicians fully trained in emergency service on duty around the clock, every day of the week.” New York City did not mandate such 24-hour care in EMS participant hospitals until June 1, 1987.
In 1990, the Division of Emergency Medical Services was named for David B. Kriser, a Beth Israel trustee, in honor of a $3 million bequest from him. This led to a major renovation, and the division doubled in size.