by Ramona Tirado
Mount Sinai Archives intern, Fall 2014
Veteran’s Day is celebrated as an opportunity to reexamine past conflicts and acknowledge the men and women who have risked everything in a fight for their nations, their people and their beliefs. Military leaders recognize the great value of having clinicians available to attend those who have been wounded in battle and many Mount Sinai physicians and nurses have contributed their specialized skills in military service during wartime.
Mount Sinai’s Archives and Records Management division has among its holdings collections of documents detailing service of The Mount Sinai doctors and nurses in World War II. This Veteran’s Day, we would like to highlight one such nurse who represented the United States and The Mount Sinai Hospital in that war, Isabelle Cedar Cook.
Isabelle Cedar had just graduated from The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing in 1940 when the U.S. Surgeon General proposed that Mount Sinai establish a 1000 bed hospital to treat soldiers overseas who had been wounded in the war. When the call was made for nurses to volunteer, Cook felt moved to action and enlisted to do what she felt was her duty to her nation. Cook was accepted into the Army Nurse Corps as part of Mount Sinai’s 3rd General Hospital unit, and in 1942 she reported for basic training at Camp Rucker in Alabama.
In May 1943 Cook traveled from Alabama to Casablanca, Morocco, where she and the rest of the unit awaited orders to report to the 3rd General’s site in Tunisia. Cook arrived in Tunisia as part an advance team that included 10 nurses. Upon their arrival, the nurses took over the French army barracks that the Germans had used as a hospital. The nurses were surprised to find the barracks still occupied by severely wounded Germans and a single doctor, all of whom had been left behind when the fighting ended. The nurses assumed the responsibility of caring for the wounded, and the doctor and all of the German soldiers became prisoners of war.
Over the next three years, the 3rd General Hospital would follow the front into Italy and then France. Cook celebrated the end of the war by marching in the VE (Victory in Europe) Day parade in Aix-en-Provence, France alongside Allied soldiers. The order came to close down the 3rd General in August 1945. She received her formal discharge in December 1945 having earned the rank of First Lieutenant.
In 1999, she published a book describing her experiences in the war. The book is titled In Times of War: Memoirs of a World War II Nurse.
October is American Archives Month, when archivists around the country try to explain to the public just what it is that we do and why it matters. Most people probably have the vague sense that archives preserve information about the past so that history, individual rights and responsibilities can be defined and protected. But what does that actually mean to real people?
This past year, the Mount Sinai Archives has answered over 300 requests for information from the Mount Sinai community and interested outsiders. As part of that we have:
- provided documents proving that a father’s military service was spent abroad so that his proud daughter could join the Veterans of Foreign Wars;
- helped children/grandchildren/family members learn more about a loved one, now gone, who attended the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing as a young woman;
- provided documents to various Mount Sinai departments to support them in their everyday activities, from report creation to lawsuits;
- supplied information and images to scholars and authors from around the world as they wrote articles, books and blog posts;
- sat with an actress to talk about her role as a nurse in 1900, showing her documents, notebooks and uniforms to give her a sense of what it would have felt like to be a nurse then, her duties and her training.
We have helped real people touch a piece of the past and that has made an impact on their lives. Not a bad way to spend your day.
A portrait of Howard Lilienthal, MD done by Frank Netter, MD. Netter served in a Mount Sinai surgical clinic in the early 1930s.
This year marks the centennial of the creation of the Thoracic Surgery Service at The Mount Sinai Hospital, today’s Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Howard Lilienthal, MD was the first Chief of the Division and was a pioneer in the field. Later that same year (1914), he performed the first successful pulmonary lobectomy for inflammatory disease of the lung in the United States. Much of his surgical work was made possible by the 1910 development by Charles Elsberg, a fellow surgeon at Mount Sinai, of a successful method of endotrachial anesthesia, allowing for open chest surgery.
Howard Lilienthal lived from 1861-1946. Over his long career, he developed seven instruments and devices (a bullet probe and forceps, a portable operating table, a rib spreader, etc.), pioneered new operations, wrote many articles, and served in a variety of roles in various professional groups. He was President of the New York County Medical Society as well as both the New York and the American Society for Thoracic Surgery, and a founder of what became the American Cancer Society. In 1925 he published a two volume work on Thoracic Surgery, the first such textbook in this country; it was an instant classic. Lilienthal was an officer in World War I, serving with Mount Sinai’s Base Hospital No.3 in France, as well as being placed in other hospitals that needed his expertise. He was cited for a Distinguished Service Medal, but it never arrived. His only son, Howard Jr., died in 1918 while serving with a British regiment.
Lilienthal has been described as “elegant and aristocratic, very much in keeping with the Mt. Sinai tradition” of his time. He enjoyed fly fishing and painting, and when his failing eyesight ended his artist’s career, he wrote short stories for children. When he died in 1946, Mount Sinai mourned the loss of one of their best and most beloved surgeons.
Vice President Gerald R. Ford and Walter Annenberg at the dedication of the Annenberg Building, May 26, 1974
On May 26, 1974, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was the principal speaker at the dedication of Annenberg Building, the home of the then new Mount Sinai School of Medicine. This celebration marked the culmination of two decades of work by Mount Sinai trustees and staff to raise the $152 million necessary to hire the faculty, create the curriculum, build the needed facilities and then find students willing to come to a new school with new ideas on medical education. The building was named for the Annenberg family because the eight children of Mrs. Moses (Sadie) Annenberg were early supporters of the fund raising campaign that created the School. The building was built to house the School of Medicine, but ultimately also had important spaces for The Mount Sinai Hospital, as well.
When the Annenberg Building opened, it had all the latest in technology, including ‘playback equipment for taped teaching aids’ and overhead closed circuit televisions. The Hospital side boasted a “computerized drug profile” for each patient and an automated medical record retrieval system. The radiology equipment was the latest, including a new ultrasound machine capable of displaying the anatomy of heart valves.
In his address, Ford said (as quoted in the NY Times), “I believe that cooperation and compromise are the only means by which our form of government – in this field and others – can move ahead successfully.” He had “hope and belief” that a national health insurance program would be enacted later in 1974.
In less than three months, Gerald Ford became President of the United States when Richard Nixon resigned. He had not mentioned Nixon’s name in his speech at Mount Sinai.
A detail from a display case showing the dog-tags that belonged to Charles F. Naumberg. He is in the picture to the left.
This summer marks the centennial of the beginning of the First World War, sparked in June 1914 by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
When the United States entered the war in 1917, the U.S. Army called on American hospitals to enlist their doctors and nurses to serve the war effort. Members of the Mount Sinai staff were organized as U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 3 and stationed at Vauclaire, a fourteenth-century monastery in southern France that had been converted to a hospital.
Two of the display cases highlight Mount Sinai’s Base Hospital No. 3. The third case features pages from a scrapbook created by Marion Moxham, RN, a graduate of the Mount Sinai Training School for Nurses. She started at Base Hospital No. 3 and was then transferred to units in Germany. Her scrapbook provides a fascinating look at life in the Army medical services during World War I.
A page from the Moxham scrapbook. Note the memo from the Chief Nurse top left: “Nurses are not allowed to dance outside of their own hospital”.
This exhibit of material from the Mount Sinai Archives demonstrates how the hospital responded to one of the twentieth century’s first major crises. Twenty-five years later, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the government would once again ask The Mount Sinai Hospital to form and support an Army unit.
Extract from the minutes of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of The Mount Sinai Hospital, November 1918
With World War I going on and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 raging, The Mount Sinai Hospital Board of Trustees found it prudent to agree to the Medical Board’s request to allow women to serve as blood donors. This was a transitional period in transfusion medicine when indirect transfusion existed (what we are familiar with today), but when direct transfusion – donor to recipient, lying side by side – was still being used. Mount Sinai physicians Lester Unger, MD and Richard Lewisohn, MD made contributions to both methods just a few years before this. But it was Lewisohn’s citrate method allowing for indirect transfusions that won the day and paved the way for the development of modern blood banking.
The clipping showing Mount Sinai Hospital nursing student Frances Klepadlo from the New York Daily Mirror, February 1954.
Back in the day, the United States used to mark the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln (February 12th) and President George Washington (February 22nd) as two separate events. In fact, it was only Washington’s birth that was celebrated as a federal holiday, starting in 1879, and it was on his actual birth date of the 22nd. In 1971, it was made a floating holiday, marked on the third Monday of February. Now the day is most commonly known as Presidents’ Day and is taken to be a combination of George and Abe’s birthday. The newspaper clipping on the left shows a student in the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing 60 years ago reading a book about George Washington to a group of pediatric patients. The student’s name is Frances Klepadlo, and she was in the Class of 1954. (The nurse on the far left is also a Mount Sinai graduate, as is evidenced by her distinctive cap.) Ms. Klepadlo recently sent an old operating room nurse’s uniform from her student days to the Mount Sinai Archives to be preserved, along with this clipping. The timing worked out perfectly for us to share it with you in honor of George Washington’s official birthday. Happy Birthday, Mr. President!