President’s Column: All the Right Moves
Moving day. We’ve all been through it, and I dread to think of ever leaving my roomy home, where the kids’ closets magically remain full a decade after the last of my three children moved out. Imagine transporting a hospital emergency room. We’ll be celebrating the grand opening in March, but December 22 was pegged as moving day, the final step—packing, testing equipment, making sure windows don’t stick—in the run-up period for the Center for Emergency Medicine. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. After 30 years as a respiratory therapist, I’ve plugged in my share of ventilators and, like you, I hate to stand on the sidelines.
In any move, there’s always that moment when you come upon an outgrown skate or a sepia photo and step back to reflect. This move was no exception. I love those black-and-white images of the American nurses who opened the first maternity and pediatric clinics in Jerusalem. Before they arrived in 1913, giving birth was a possible death sentence for a woman, and two out of ten Jerusalem babies never saw their first birthday. Thirty percent died as infants in Haifa, and 40 percent in Jaffa.
Hadassah nurses introduced hygiene and nutrition, helped wipe out trachoma and distributed the first pasteurized milk for children. Picture them heating vats of milk, cooling it in bathtubs and distributing it on donkeys—overcoming superstitions and protesting husbands. “When we achieved independence, we didn’t have to build a health system,” said Israel’s then Minister of Health Nissim Dahan at the CEM’s June 2002 groundbreaking. “Hadassah had already provided one.”
The health care we introduced—in the Galilee, in Hebron, in Tel Aviv as well as in Jerusalem—was successful because it was coupled with education. In 1918, Hadassah provided women in Palestine with their first opportunity to go to college by opening a nursing school, over the objections of those who thought nice girls shouldn’t leave home before marriage. We based our curriculum on the finest American models. No wonder 6 of the first 22 graduates immediately leaped to jobs as school principals or hospital supervisors.
After World War II, we opened the first Israeli medical school, where students adjusted to American standards. Unlike European academies where personal experience was paramount, Hadassah doctors were taught to familiarize themselves with medical literature, learning from international experience. We take for granted today that patients come to our hospitals from all over Israel and abroad and that two Hadassah-trained physicians recently won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Our nurses and doctors went forth from Jerusalem, not only contributing to our hospitals but to head departments and teach Hadassah-style medicine all over the country.
A dozen years ago, we understood the need for a state-of-the-art trauma unit that could give instant care to the critically injured. Other Israeli hospitals followed our lead. I shudder to think of the last four years without trauma specialists providing immediate, multifaceted care for terror victims. Now our pioneering trauma unit, greatly expanded, is moving into the new CEM.
As we open the center, we are continuing Hadassah’s tradition of setting new standards. God forbid we should need all its special features for coping with biological and chemical warfare, but Jewish history demands that we be over-prepared for threats to our existence.
Back in 1961, Hadassah nurses, wearing starched white caps with red Stars of David, danced the hora on the day we moved to Ein Karem. On the historic day when we add the Center of Emergency Medicine to this campus, they’ll be dressed casually, giving live reports to their families and friends by cell phone. Nonetheless, the same Hadassah is responding to the urgent needs of the people of Israel and leading the way in healing, teaching and medical research.
You won’t accept anything but the best, and as we move into new quarters, I’m especially proud to be your president.
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