Annenberg Building Dedicated 40 Years Ago This May

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.

Mount Sinai in the First World War

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.

Women As Blood Donors – 1918

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 Real President’s Day

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!