A Mount Sinai Employee Murdered! – in 1937

Some of you may have read the sad story about the murder of a woman in the Justice Story column of the Daily News on Sunday. It is about how Irma Pradier thought she was going to run off with her boyfriend to California, but instead she was found murdered the next day along the Harlem Speedway, today known as the Harlem River Drive. I was particularly interested in this because it noted that she had been a maid at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and had even lived at the Hospital. I also realized that she had been hired before 1937, which meant there was a good chance the Aufses Archives had some record about her in our one existing employee logbook, which dates from 1882-1937. This lists all persons hired to work at Mount Sinai, which would exclude the medical staff who were generally not paid anything, or worked under a contract model.

And I was right!

Below is a portion of the page from our logbook that includes Irma Pradier.  You can see from this she was hired February 13, 1934 and she lived ‘In,’ which would have meant the Employee Dormitory that faced 99th St., near Madison Ave. (across from today’s Atran and Berg buildings.)  She was hired to be a Maid in the OPD (Out-Patient Department) for $35/month. (She would have also received a free meal as part of her compensation.) When she resigned on July 19, 1937, she had advanced to $47/month. As the News‘ article says, her reason for leaving is listed as “Going to Calif.” And the rest is history, or at least, an article in the Sunday Daily News.

The Irma Pradier entry from The Mount Sinai Hospital Employee Logbook

*The book is organized chronologically under each letter of the alphabet. Every entry was done by hand by an employee of the Personnel Office. This was THE official employment history of each worker. The blue bottom edge is from a long ago ink spill that saturated the pages. Note the other reasons for leaving employment. Some are fascinating!

Hortense Hirsch

This is a guest blog post by summer intern, Lily Stowe-Alekman. Lily is a junior at Smith College where she studies History, Archives, and the Study of Women and Gender.  

Even before given access to traditional pathways of change, women at The Mount Sinai Hospital have worked to make change in the institution. From the opening of The Mount Sinai Hospital in 1855, the wives and daughters of the Board of Trustees worked to provide services in order to provide comfort to patients and to address their social and emotional well-being. By 1917, the first year that women were allowed on the Board, the role of women, and their expectations of that role, had substantially changed. The growing power of women was expressed by the creation of their own organization to exert influence over the life of the Hospital, the Social Service Auxiliary. And according to Helen Rehr, DSW, the second Edith J. Baerwald Professor of Community Medicine (Social Work), they were a force to be reckoned with.1 When prompted in an interview about the Auxiliary, “…they weren’t social butterflies having their tea. That’s not an image you would draw,” Rehr responded “Not these women, never. In the 28 years that I’ve known them I don’t recall having tea with them. No, they were women who came with a commitment to the social organization.”  Hortense Hirsch, who served on the Auxiliary Board and Board of Trustees as one of the first woman able to be a Trustee, is a powerful example of the trailblazing women of the Auxiliary Board.

Black and white portrait of Hortense Hirsch, circa 1960.

A portrait of Hortense Hirsch, circa 1960.

In 1923, Mrs. Hortense Hirsch (1887-1990) began her work with the Social Services Auxiliary (today’s Auxiliary Board), of which she would continue to be a member for sixty-five years, including a tenure as president from 1951-1956. From there, she was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1932, where she remained until becoming an honorary trustee in 1986. She sat on several committees of the Board, including as a member of the Committee on Building Maintenance and Equipment, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Social Service, Chairman of the Committee on Convalescent Care, and as a member of the Committee on Ladies’ Auxiliary. Hirsch was president of the Neustadter Home for Convalescents beginning in 1937 when the Home affiliated with Mount Sinai, until she stepped down from the post in 1953.

A photograph of (from left to right) Helen Benjamin, member of the Women’s Auxiliary Board; Mrs. Edith Lehman, the first President of the Auxiliary Board from 1916-1917, Mrs. Ruth Cook, President from 1917-51; and Mrs. Hortense Hirsch, the presiding President of the Board at the fiftieth anniversary of the Auxiliary Board in 1956. Helen Benjamin holds a picture of the first social work volunteer from 1907.

Hortense Hirsch lived to be 103 years old, and by all accounts she remained steadfast in her dedication to social work and volunteerism for her whole life. After she graduated from Smith College in 1907 at the age of 19, she married Walter Hirsch and then moved to New York City in 1909. She began her work as a volunteer at Mount Sinai in 1917.  The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies later referred to her as the “honorary ‘Dean of Social Work Volunteers.’” As a thoroughly involved volunteer and then Auxiliary Board member, Hirsch dedicated many hours to the hospital.  Dr. Helen Rehr remarked in 1982, “The demands on her were great, but she always rose to it. There was no question on that score.”

Color candid photograph of Hortense Hirsch. She wears a red dress and a pearl necklace. She's opening an envelope and laughing.

Portrait of Hortense Hirsch, circa 1976.

Hortense Hirsch’s personality leaps off the pages of archival materials. When at Smith College, she maintained her own horse and buggy, which was against the rules, by paying a farmer for boarding, effectively evading the administration. In a New York Times article documenting her 100th birthday celebration, her daughter Carol Kridel told them, that while Hirsch was too ill to attend and she had to stay in bed, she was still “wearing a pink bedjacket and a pink bow in her silver hair.” The article also includes a story of Hirsch “[coming] to her 85th birthday and [tossing] her skirts high to show she approved of the latest rage—hotpants.”

Hortense Hirsch’s work on the Social Service and Women’s Auxiliary Board helped to transform the hospital. She worked tirelessly as a volunteer and board member. Hirsch’s work and legacy came from and continued those of the women who originally found pathways to affect changes at The Mount Sinai Hospital in the late 1800s. Hirsch served on the Board of Trustees, an opportunity that was not available to the women of previous generations. As Dr. Helen Rehr stated, “the Mrs. Hirsches are an outgrowth of that group of women who were the wives of the board of trustees” and ultimately transformed the hospital in the process.

Archives History in the Archival Materials

This is a guest blog post by summer intern, Lily Stowe-Alekman. Lily is a junior at Smith College where she studies History, Archives, and the Study of Women and Gender.  

As a summer intern with the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Archives, I have become acquainted with Mount Sinai’s history and the efforts that go into preserving its legacy. One of the projects I have worked on is cataloging The Mount Sinai Hospital News, an in-house tabloid-style newsletter for Mount Sinai employees. Colleen Stapleton, Patient Navigator for the Liver Education & Action Program at Mount Sinai, volunteered with the Archives this spring and digitized the newsletters from 1958-71. In my work cataloging, I read some really entertaining stories that offered a glimpse into the personal lives of people who worked in The Mount Sinai Hospital (later Medical Center), whether that be birth announcements of their children, quirky stories about the things employees did outside of the hospital, or articles about celebratory dinners and ceremonies. One can also not forget the hospital’s bowling team.

While cataloging in July, I came across a story that made me pause because it felt like a full circle moment. The October 1971 issue of The Mount Sinai Medical Center News featured an article called “Everyone Talks about Mount Sinai’s Glorious History; Dr. Al Lyons, Arch Archivist, Does Something About It.” This article has history of the Aufses Archives and is within the archive. While the Aufses Archives is a site of historical preservation, it has its own history as well.

Caption: The objects featured in the article header are still in the Arthur H. Aufses Jr. MD Archives today!

The creation of what is now the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Archives is due to the work and advocacy of Dr. Albert S. Lyons in the 1960s to 1980s. Over this time, Dr. Lyons advocated for the need of creating the archive and in 1986, secured its future with the hiring of a full-time archivist, Barbara Niss, who remains the Director today. Dr. Lyons (1912-2006) spent over sixty years of his life working at Mount Sinai. He began as a surgical resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1938. He went on to become the founder and Chief of the Intestinal Rehabilitation Clinic and worked to help support patient needs post-surgery. He was also a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He wrote a well-known book, Medicine: An Illustrated History, a volume of over six hundred pages, charting medicine from the prehistoric era to the twentieth century. 

Beyond his clinical work, Dr. Lyons was committed to Mount Sinai’s institutional history and to history of medicine in general. He taught the History of Medicine elective courses in the medical school. In the 1960s, he convinced the hospital board to collect the institutional history of the hospital. In 1966, he was made Hospital Archivist by Mr. Gustave L. Levy, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Lyons’ passion for preserving the history of The Mount Sinai Hospital overlapped with the discussions and planning of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, which welcomed its first students in the fall of 1968. In 1970, he was given the official title of Medical Center Archivist. Dr. Lyons also contributed a broad range of valuable materials to the Archives, including over eighty-five oral history interviews dating to 1965, a formative time for the field of oral history as well as for the Medical Center, as the School planned for and welcomed its first students.

In October of 1971, The Mount Sinai Medical Center News wrote about Dr. Lyons’ archival work. The article highlights the work and efforts of Dr. Lyons and serves as a call to action of sorts for the archive. Dr. Lyons is quoted in the first line as saying, “When in doubt, don’t throw it out.” He goes on to say that “too much of Mount Sinai’s past has already gone up in smoke,” due to people throwing out items without realizing their significance. He stresses as well that ordinary everyday materials are archival. He stresses that history is not necessarily in the distant past, that the events of the previous day are history. In this sense, Dr. Lyons de-mystifies the archives by showing that it should be in connection with the present moment and is not a disconnected abstract institution. The closing paragraph of the article instructs readers, “If you’ve uncovered some papers or objects you think may be worth saving, are planning some event to make current Medical History, etc. Drop Dr. Lyons a note.” In turn, “He and the Future will thank you!”

 

SOURCES

Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. MD Archives and Records Management. “Lyons, Albert S., MD, Papers, 1932-2000.” Collection Guides.  https://icahn.mssm.edu/about/ait/archives/collection/albert-lyons.

Aufses, Arthur H., Jr., and Barbara Niss. This House of Noble Deeds: The Mount Sinai Hospital, 1852-2002, New York University Press, 2002. ProQuest Ebook Central, xi.

“Everyone Talks About Mount Sinai’s Glorious History; Dr. Al Lyons, Arch Archivist, Does Something About It.” Mount Sinai Medical Center News. October 1971. 5, 10.

Mount Sinai Beth Israel and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic

An update to this blog post can be found here.

Founded in 1892, the early history of Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital was decorated with a series of success stories in the treatment of disease. Against the background of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, then affected by poverty, close living quarters, and dangerous working conditions, its residents, largely recent Jewish immigrants, were made vulnerable to many of the contagious diseases of that era. In its first years, Beth Israel contributed research to combat the typhoid epidemic of 1906-1907, established an after-care clinic to children affected by the 1916 polio epidemic, and is credited with finding the cure for trachoma, which had previously been a cause to turn away new immigrants at Ellis Island.

Only twenty-five years after Beth Israel’s opening, the United States was embroiled in the first World War. The Hospital encouraged its medical staff to join the Medical Reserve Corps, with approximately half of its doctors signing up. The Hospital had also encouraged its nurses, physicians and other staff to join the war effort.

This left Beth Israel in a precarious position when the 1918 Influenza epidemic reached New York City. Being chronically understaffed, Beth Israel’s Medical Board contacted the Department of Health for advice. The response was simply: “There is nothing to advise except the use of gauze masks which did not always prevent the disease.” In November 1918, the Hospital eliminated visiting hours, curtailed teaching hours, and turned the Male Medical Ward over to the Department of Health to use as an isolation facility for the pandemic. (The DOH never used the facility because they were similarly understaffed.)

Female ward of Beth Israel Hospital, Jefferson and Cherry Street, circa 1910

Ultimately, Beth Israel was only able to admit twenty-nine influenza patients. (Update: This number is disputed in other sources.) Seven members of the House Staff were awarded $25 (approximately $500 today) for “self-sacrificing services performed” and the Hospital offered special incentive pay to doctors and nurses to help combat the fact that they were understaffed.

Despite the limited patient intake, Beth Israel’s contributions to the 1918 flu pandemic were still impactful. In December 1918, Superintendent of the Hospital, Louis J. Frank, contacted Presidents Roosevelt and Taft to encourage universal nursing training in the education of women, likely in response to the chronic under-staffing at this time. By January 1919, many of the patients in the Hospital were admitted for “post-influenzal complications” leading to the care of many affected by the pandemic.

Sources:

Mount Sinai in a time of Epidemic – Typhus, 1915

Mount Sinai physicians have a long tradition of making important contributions to the scientific literature. A good example is the following case from the 1910s, when typhus swept the world, killing thousands of people.

In 1910, Nathan Brill, MD, a doctor in the Department of Medicine, published a description of what he thought was the endemic form of typhus; this became known as Brill’s Disease. (Later Hans Zinsser showed that it was not endemic, but a mild recrudescent form of epidemic typhus and the name was changed to Brill-Zinsser disease.) In 1913, Harry Plotz, MD, an intern working in Mount Sinai‘s Pathology Laboratory, believed that he had discovered an organism that caused typhus.  He published a Letter in JAMA in 1914 outlining his research.

Harry Plotz, MD as a Mount Sinai intern in 1915

Since this was such an important public health problem, in 1915, Mount Sinai’s Trustees took the unusual step of agreeing to fund a trip to gather blood specimens in the Balkans, where there was a typhus outbreak – and the early stages of World War I.  As noted in Wikipedia: “disease ravaged the armies of the Eastern Front, where over 150,000 died in Serbia alone. Fatalities were generally between 10% and 40% of those infected and the disease was a major cause of death for those nursing the sick.”

The research results of this trip were described by the physicians Harry Plotz and George Baehr in a 1917 paper in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. The details of the trip itself are described in the 1916 Annual Report of The Mount Sinai Hospital  This narrative also describes an additional trip by Dr. Peter Olitzky to Mexico, also funded by Mount Sinai, when the researchers in Europe were taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarian government. This lengthy quote provides the Trustee President of Mount Sinai’s description of the events of 1915-16:

In pursuance of my remarks of last year in regard to the typhus expedition to Serbia, I wish to state that Drs. George Baehr and Harry Plotz after many difficulties established a laboratory at Belgrade in a hospital directed by the American Red Cross. Thirty-six hours before the bombardment of Belgrade, they left for Uskub and there set up a laboratory in the Lady Paget Hospital, and shortly thereafter the town was occupied by the Bulgarians. Very soon afterwards they were invited by the Bulgarian and Austrian Governments to work under their auspices. They then left for Sofia and afterwards went to Vienna, Lemberg and into Russia….

Because of the fact that Drs. Baehr and Plotz during the first six months of their stay in Europe, practically did not come in contact with typhus fever, it was considered important to send a second expedition into Mexico to determine the cause of the Mexican typhus fever, and to carry on other work which at that time we were not sure could be carried on in Europe. The second expedition consisted of Drs. Peter K. Olitzky and Bernard S. Denzer, accompanied by Mr. Irving Brout, a laboratory helper, and the expedition was under the guidance and care of Dr. Carlos E. Husk, a prominent surgeon attached to the staff of the American Smelting & Refining Co. The expenses of the expedition were defrayed in part by Trustees of the Mount Sinai Hospital and in part by the American Smelting & Refining Co.

It was first decided to go to Aguascalientes, but after the expedition reached Matehuala it was determined to remain there, as even at that distance from the border the danger, because of dis- turbances of international conditions, was very great. Early in March, because of the increasing danger in which the men were placed, they were requested to return. The members of the expedition did not, however, leave, because Dr. Olitzky had been stricken with a severe attack of typhus fever. Very shortly thereafter, the plants of the American Smelting & Refining Co. throughout Mexico were closed down, and Dr. Olitzky had to be removed to Laredo, Texas. Just before the departure Dr. Husk, who had been of the greatest aid in the accomplishment of a remarkable piece of work within four weeks, also fell ill of typhus fever, and was brought into Laredo in a very serious condition. Dr. Olitzky after going through a most dangerous attack of the disease, recovered, but unfortunately it proved impossible to save Dr. Husk’s life.

During the course of this expedition the same germ was found in the typhus fever cases in Mexico as had been found in New York and as was found by the members of the European expedition in Serbia, Bulgaria, Austria and Russia. Apart from that, the typhus germ was cultivated repeatedly from lice, which have in recent years been considered the agent in transferring typhus fever from one person to another. Some further scientific studies were made, and vaccination done on a rather large scale. The results of the vaccination cannot be determined at the present time because of the unsettled conditions in Mexico.

In the end, no successful vaccine has been developed for typhus, but antibiotics and public health measures have made it a treatable, rarely fatal disease in the U.S.

The story of typhus and Mount Sinai is important because it shows the institution’s commitment to research and developing new treatments during times of crisis. As shown here, this commitment is not solely from the medical and scientific staff, but also from the Trustees and supporters of Mount Sinai. When times are dire, as in today’s COVID-19 pandemic, Sinai finds a way to enable the work to get done to advance medical knowledge and improve the treatment of patients.

Florence Nightingale’s 200th!

This year the world marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910.) Her name is known around the world and nurses everywhere enjoy the fruits of her labors today. She lived a long time ago in a very different world, but she enunciated the basic philosophy of modern nursing, and introduced statistics into the study of disease.

The Aufses Archives has copies of two of Miss Nightingale’s books: Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals. The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing, which existed from 1881-1971, had a small collection of Nightingale letters that they had gathered over the years. Some of these were given to the Columbia University School of Nursing in 1953, as shown in the image below.

      From the Aufses Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitals, schools of nursing, archives, and history of medicine collections will be marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale this year with celebrations, blog posts, exhibits and lectures. Here are links to just a few of those celebrations going on this year:

Nightingale: Lady and Legend at the National Library of Medicine: https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2020/05/12/nightingale-lady-and-legend/   This includes this note on sources: The National Library of Medicine’s holdings of Nightingale materials are (unsurprisingly) extensive, with over seventy printed titles and editions. In addition, the Library holds a group of Nightingale letters written between 1845 and 1878, all of which may be read as part of the Florence Nightingale Digitization Projectand a copy of an oral history interview conducted by M. Adelaide Nutting (herself a giant in the history of nursing) in 1890. A transcript is available at http://oculus.nlm.nih.gov/2935116r.

A blog post on the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Nursing ties to Nightingale: https://www2.hshsl.umaryland.edu/hslupdates/?p=4177

A blog post at the UCLA Library about the Elmer Belt FN Collection and other Nightingaleiana we have and use: https://www.library.ucla.edu/blog/special/2020/05/11/happy-birthday-florence-nightingale

Finally, there is a special exhibit at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London called Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places  https://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/200objects/  Sadly, the Museum is closed due to the pandemic and is struggling financially. As they note:

Nursing, washing your hands and evidence based-healthcare, pioneered by Florence Nightingale, have become more important than ever before and we’re calling upon our friends and supporters to help us preserve her story and legacy.

A Project Comes to Life – Volunteering in the Aufses Archives

This is a guest blog post by Colleen Stapleton. Colleen is a Patient Navigator with the Liver Education and Action Program (LEAP) at Mount Sinai, where she works to improve linkage to care for patients living with Hepatitis C. Colleen is an advocate for innovative health literacy strategies and a volunteer with the the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Archives at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she hopes to complete a history project mapping women’s contributions to the hospital. 

Inspiration

Every Tuesday and Thursday before the global shutdown due to SARS-CoV-2, I left my office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and walked a few blocks down to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Annenberg Building on 5th Ave. The building, part of Mount Sinai Health System’s main hospital complex, is a labyrinth of offices and meeting spaces. On the 10th floor, next to IT offices and tucked behind the Otolaryngology suite, is the office of the Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD Archives.

I started volunteering with the archives as a way to keep in touch with my personal interests while working as a patient navigator on a public health project in the Mount Sinai Hospital Liver department. My interest in medical devices, most notably the Dalkon Shield IUD tragedy, had introduced me to historian Susan Perry’s fantastic project that took shape in her 1985 book Nightmare.

Perry’s work inspired me to scheme: how could I sharpen my historical eye? How could I hone my training in visual history and explore my personal investment in the stories of women in medicine? What I found in my project scanning and cataloguing Mount Sinai Health System newsletters, however, was much more upbeat than the project that had originally inspired me.

When I reached out to Mount Sinai’s archive I was generously invited to join a team dedicated to preserving the accomplishments of Mount Sinai providers, scientists, and workers. My lunch-hour task would be to make the Archives’ collection of newsletters more accessible to our archivists, and if possible the Archives’ online readership.

Collection

The first issue of The Mount Sinai Hospital News, which ran from 1958-1982

The Aufses Archives has many collections of newsletters. I am starting with the “Mount Sinai Hospital News.” The series consists of several large folders containing two sets of the title. The first newsletter set, set “one”, is known as the “preservation set.” As such, it isn’t handled frequently and contains the best copies. Set “two” contains the copies of the newsletter that are meant to be handled. This handling may occur when inquiries come in from several sources, including relatives of nursing school alumnae, providers previously employed by the hospital or medical school, and hospital or school departments sourcing historical projects, among others. Both sets are stored among the other contents preserved by the Archives.

The archives are not a museum, and so they contain mostly paper-based items and files pertaining to the history of the hospital and medical school. In addition to the collection of newsletters, the Archives includes photographs, meeting minutes, office files, and miscellanea. The collection does house selected objects, including some medical devices, dolls, and even a moulage kit from the 1990s recently passed along to the Emergency Department for use in emergency drills. One of the oldest objects, a ledger indicating notes from one of the first Mount Sinai Beth Israel board meetings, is written by hand in Yiddish and dates back to the 1890s.

 The Plan

 At the start of the project, the team discussed plans for indexing a collection of newsletters. Would we keep an Excel file of key terms, titles, and dates? Could we also digitize the newsletters? After thinking about the “what” that we would like to make available, we discussed the “how” and “why” of the project. How would the Archives’ online readership access tools to search the newsletter collection? Would we be able to leverage resources to make every issue available online? What were the costs and benefits of spending time uploading each issue digitally?

I was happy to volunteer my help with scanning the newsletters, due in part to my history with an old archive project at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY. As a curatorial intern I had been dying to scan the museum’s collection of newspaper clippings highlighting exhibitions and visits by Yoko Ono and John Lennon among other fascinating historical happenings! As it happened, our crew in Syracuse was limited by resource shortages, and scanning would have to be pushed to the next summer.

After some thought and research into searchable PDF text formats, my inclination to scan and upload every issue into our database (then online) was accepted! I was carefully handed a small pile of newsletters, then headed into our neighboring IT office to commandeer the scanner for an hour. The process of scanning had begun!

Watch for Part II, coming soon.

 

 

 

 

“apparently dead but not actually so”

The second site of the Hospital on Lexington Avenue

This is an excerpt from the minutes of the Board of Directors of The Mount Sinai Hospital, March 11, 1888. It is a report from Mr. De Witt J. Seligman, a Director, concerning the proper verification of deaths occurring in the Hospital. The punctuation has not been changed. It provides an interesting view into what was then – and now – a very important issue: how to determine when someone is, in fact, dead.

“Mr. Seligman who was appointed a committee of one…read the following report:

To the Board of Directors of Mount Sinai Hospital:

Having been appointed at the last regular meeting of your Board a Committee of one to look into the matter of certifying to deaths I beg to submit the following report.

In getting at the facts of this matter I have seen three doctors of our visiting staff, the Pathologist of the New York Hospital, the House Surgeon and the House Physician of Mount Sinai Hospital and the Superintendent of Mount Sinai Hospital. There can be no doubt that it happens at times that patients are declared dead before life has become extinct. The Superintendent of our Hospital informs me that on one occasion a nurse told him that her patient was dead and that she was going to announce it to the doctor. The superintendent, Mr. Hadel, went to the Ward and found the alleged dead man sitting bolt upright.

A man informed our Superintendent, Mr. Hadel, that when he was a patient at Blackwell’s Island he was being carried from the Ward to the dead house. On the way they passed through the open air and the effect was that the man on the stretcher became revived and lived to tell this tale of carelessness to our Superintendent. Only this winter a relative by marriage of my wife was, I am informed, declared dead by a physician, but today that same man is as lively as a cricket. Had he been a patient of the Mount Sinai Hospital might he not under our present rules, have ·been hurried from his warm bed in the Ward into the death house and there frozen to death in a short time?

The Pathologist of the New York Hospital informs me that the Ambulance surgeon of the New York Hospital has been repeatedly in doubt as to whether a patient was dead or not and the same Pathologist of the New York Hospital tells me that a certain Dr. Ridlow thought a patient was dead and but two hours later the patient showed life; on the following day Dr. Ridlow again thought that the same patient was dead but even after that on the second day the patient showed life. There was in this case trouble with the heart. An intelligent gentleman connected with the Mount Sinai Hospital as a Director informs me that he and his wife have a mutual agreement by which in the case of the supposed death of one of them, the survivor is to carry out the following agreement: the word of the family physician is not to be taken that death has come but an outside physician is to be summoned to apply the death tests. After that is done no ice is to be placed on the body for 8 hours and the burial is not to take place for three days. In a large institution like ours where deaths are naturally occurring continually, the question arises, what method shall we adopt to avoid the possible mistake of hurrying a supposed corpse into the dead house where in case some life is still in the body it would soon by the sudden change of temperature be frozen out of the body.

One of our visiting physicians whom I saw suggested that the supposed corpse be placed in a warm room for 6 hours and that after 6 hours a second examination be made and then if no sign of life be found place the corps in the dead house. If decomposition has already set in this 6 hours additional precaution, the said visiting physician thought, ought not be taken, nor ought it be taken in warm weather when the cool temperature of the dead house would even aid to revive the flickering flame of life.

This idea seems to me the best idea that was suggested provided it be conscientiously carried out at the Hospital. But whatever rule you may make, one thing is sure and that is that no one but the House Physician on his side and no one but the House Surgeon on his side ought to make the death tests and in each and every case the House Physician or the House Surgeon ought to feel and bear the whole responsibility. To this end I would recommend that we have printed slips which shall run about as follows:

Mount Sinai Hospital, N. Y.
This is to certify that I have this day carefully examined __________________________
a patient of Mount Sinai Hospital in Ward No.____ Bed No.____ and found (him or her) dead.

These slips are to be signed only by the House Surgeon on his side of the Hospital and all these slips are to be kept by the Superintendent of Mount Sinai Hospital in a book for that purpose. In consultations with Drs. Rich and Walsh, the House Surgeon and House Physician of this Hospital, I find that there are no rules as to who shall declare that life has left a patient. Dr. Rich informed me that he always attended to this but Dr. Walsh informed me that in nearly all cases he did and in the remaining cases he left the investigation of the alleged corpse to any doctor, it mattered not which one.

The Pathologist of the New York Hospital informs me that at the New York Hospital the House Physician or the House Surgeon and nobody else testifies to death and even if he has been but a short time previous to death say three times at the bedside said House Physician or House Surgeon is personally compelled to go to the Ward and examine the patient after he has been declared dead. Even at night at the New York Hospital the House Physician or the House Surgeon is compelled to go to the body and examine it.

It may be of interest to you to know that at the New York Hospital every single corpse is washed and put in a shroud and as this operation usually takes half an hour or more, in the opinion of the Pathologist of the New York Hospital who gave me this information, is an additional safeguard against treating the patient as dead before life has left the body.

A great deal more could be written on this important subject, but I think I have written enough to make it clear that this Hospital should have the most stringent rules that can possibly be made in the matter of death certification.

Respectfully submitted
(signed) DeWitt J. Seligman

Mr. [Isaac] Wallach moved that the report of Mr. Seligman dated March 11, 1888 be spread on the minutes in full and that the recommendations contained in said report that the House Physician and House Surgeon must examine persons supposed to have died and sign certificates of death and no one else, in the manner suggested in said report.

That a book be provided for the purpose by the Comm. on Printing.

That the suggestion to place alleged dead persons for 6 hours in a warm room from and during cold months before such bodies are placed in the dead house be referred to the Executive Committee to provide the room if possible.

These provisions are intended as safeguards to prevent the slightest possibility of patients being placed in Dead House who may be apparently dead but not actually so. This whole motion of Mr. Wallach was adopted.

May is the Mount Sinai Month for Buildings

By some remarkable coincidence, many Mount Sinai Health System buildings have been dedicated or opened in May.

The Beth Israel Hospital opened its first facility in a rented loft in May 1890 and then moved to 196 Broadway the next year. In May of 1892 they moved again, this time to 206 E. Broadway and 195 Division St. Beth Israel remained at this location until the completion of the Jefferson & Cherry Street building in 1902. Beth Israel did not have another May opening until May 15, 1966 when the Linsky Pavilion opened.

Beth Israel’s Jefferson and Cherry Street location

The Linsky Pavilion, which opened in May 1966

 

 

 

 

 

 

On May 17, 1855, a religious service was held to inaugurate the opening of The Jews’ Hospital in the City of New York, which became The Mount Sinai Hospital in 1866. Presiding at the inauguration was Rabbi J.J. Lyons, with Rabbis Leo, Sternberger, Rubin, Cohen, Waterman, Schickler and Tebrich serving as cantors.

The original building of The Mount Sinai Hospital

The second site of the Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Mount Sinai had outgrown this site, the Trustees decided to move uptown to the block of Lexington Avenue between 66th and 67th Streets. The cornerstone for the new hospital was laid on May 25, 1870 and the completed hospital was opened on May 29, 1872.

The 1904 building along 100th Street

Within 25 years, the Hospital had again filled its site and decided to move to its current home next to Central Park, between 100th and 101st Streets. The Park ensured that the hospital would not again get surrounded by the bustle of the City’s streets. The cornerstone for this new hospital was laid on May 22, 1901. In May 1922, Mount Sinai marked the completion of a massive expansion project that extended the hospital across 100th Street down to 99th Street. This included 1184 5th Avenue, which today is the oldest building on the Mount Sinai campus.

On May 23, 1952, The Mount Sinai Hospital celebrated the dedication of the Klingenstein Pavilion on 5th Avenue.

This was built as Mount Sinai’s Maternity Pavilion, and remains the home of our OB-GYN department. At the same event, the Atran Laboratory and the Henry W. Berg, MD Laboratory buildings were both dedicated as well.

The Klingenstein Pavilion on 5th Avenue

Vice President Ford and Walter Annenberg looking at the portrait of Mrs. Annenberg at the dedication in 1974

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, in perhaps Mount Sinai’s biggest dedication, on May 26, 1974, the new Mount Sinai School of Medicine welcomed Vice President Gerald Ford and the Annenberg family to celebrate the formal dedication of the Annenberg Building. When this building opened, it was the thought to be the largest space in this country devoted to medical education.

St. Luke’s Hospital on 5th Avenue

The Mount Sinai Hospital was not alone in its fascination with May for buildings. On May 21, 1857, the St. Luke’s Hospital chapel opened at the Hospital’s first site and a year later (May 13, 1858) the hospital itself opened at 5th Ave between 54th and 55th Streets.

 

 

The Woman’s Hospital in the State of New York, which became the Women’s Division of St. Luke’s Hospital in 1952, also had a May dedication tradition. On May 4, 1855 the Woman’s Hospital was opened at 83 Madison Avenue. Almost 50 years later, on May 17, 1904, the cornerstone was laid at a new site at Amsterdam Avenue and 110th Street.

The first home of the Woman’s Hospital

The 1904 west side Woman’s Hospital building

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on May 25, 1965 the Woman’s Hospital opened in a separate building on the St. Luke’s campus on Amsterdam Avenue and 114th Street.

Useless, but Interesting

As the spring very slowly arrives, the tired mind often screams for relief from the challenge of processing complex information. So, here is some Mount Sinai trivia that is guaranteed to interest without straining the brain.

Did you know:

…that in the 17th century there were Native Americans living in East Harlem and there was a stream flowing where the Icahn building now stands?

…that the first year The Mount Sinai Hospital was opened (1855-56), we admitted 216 patients, only five of whom were born in the US, and three of them listed their careers as comedians?

Mount Sinai founder, Benjamin Nathan

…that The Mount Sinai Hospital had a well regarded nursing school that existed from 1881-1971 and that 5 E. 98th Street was the School of Nursing dorm/educational building?

…that when the Hospital moved to its second site at Lexington Ave. and 66th St. in 1872, the Trustees built a large synagogue upstairs and a small operating room in the basement?

…that a Mount Sinai founder, Benjamin Nathan, was murdered in his sleep on a stormy night, and members of his family are still on the Board to this day?

…that Mount Sinai did not have an obstetrical service for the first century of its existence, only offering an OB Service when the Klingenstein Pavilion opened in late 1952?

…that there is a time capsule buried under the directory in the Annenberg Lobby that is scheduled to be opened in 2074, 100 years after it was placed there?

…that Jonas Salk and Henry Heimlich both served their internships at Mount Sinai, Salk graduating in 1942 and Heimlich in 1948?

…that in 1964, Mount Sinai had 1,326 beds, 200 more than we have today?

…that when the first ICU opened at Mount Sinai in 1962, it had five beds and was located in 1184 Fifth Ave., on the 7th floor?

…that in 1993 Mount Sinai School of Medicine became the first in New York State to graduate a class with more women than men?

…that there are at least 43 diseases, syndromes, tests, instruments and phenomena named after Mount Sinai physicians and scientists?