National Jewish Health
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|National Jewish Health|
National Jewish Health, circa 1920.
|Location||1400 Jackson Street, Denver, Colorado, United States|
|Care system||Private, non-profit|
|Affiliated university||University of Colorado Denver|
|Lists||Hospitals in Colorado|
National Jewish Health is a Denver, Colorado academic hospital/clinic doing research and treatment in respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders. Somewhat like Mayo Clinic and other well-known medical centers, it draws people from many countries to receive care. Founded in 1899 to treat tuberculosis,, it is non-sectarian but had funding from B'nai B'rith until the 1950s.
The clean air and sunshine cure
By the late 19th century, Colorado and the American Southwest had become famous for the health benefits of a dry, sunny climate. At that time, the only known treatment for tuberculosis (TB) was clean air and sunshine and hundreds of people with tuberculosis descended upon Denver in hopes of finding a miracle cure for what was then the nation’s leading cause of death. Consequently, many TB sufferers spent their last dollars coming to Colorado. By the 1890s, it was estimated that one out of every three residents of the state was there for respiratory reasons. However, no facilities existed to provide treatment or shelter to these victims. In Denver, victims of TB were literally dying in the streets as boarding houses often banned "lungers," as they were called.
Treatment of tuberculosis
It was obvious that the Denver community at large was not sympathetic to the plight of needy TB sufferers, and many, including prominent Denver resident Frances Wisebart Jacobs stated that "we can't blacken the name of the city" by making it a TB refuge.
Frances Wisebart Jacobs, known as "Mother of Charities", recognized the need for a TB hospital. After joining forces with a young rabbi, William Sterne Friedman, the two raised enough money to buy some land and erect a building.
The hospital’s cornerstone was laid on October 9, 1892 drew huge crowds. "The exercises yesterday were attended by several thousand people of all denominations, and the cable and electric car lines were taxed to full capacity, while the route to the site was lined with carriages."
The original hospital was completed in 1893 and was to be named the Francis Wisebart Jacobs Hospital after its founder, but she died of pneumonia before the hospital opened.
Unfortunately, due to the combination of the "Silver Crisis of 1893" and a national depression, the hospital did not open and sat vacant for six years until Rabbi Friedman approached B'nai B'rith, a national Jewish organization, and persuaded them to raise the required operating funds on an annual basis.
When the hospital opened on December 10, 1899, it had a new name; National Jewish Hospital for Treatment of Consumptives (consumption is an old name for TB that describes how the highly contagious illness wastes away or consumes its victims). B'nai B'rith continued to support the hospital until the early 1950s.
Despite its name, National Jewish treats all comers and emphasizes giving care to those who can't pay. At the ground-breaking on October 9, 1892, it was noted that "…[Pain] knows no creed, so is this building the prototype of the grand idea of Judaism, which casts aside no stranger no matter of what race or blood. We consecrate this structure to humanity, to our suffering fellowman, regardless of creed." National Jewish adopted the motto:"None may enter who can pay -- none can pay who enter" The hospital opened with a capacity of 60 patients with the goal of treating 150 patients a year.
In the beginning, a 6-month limit on patient stays was imposed and only patients in the early stages of TB were to be accepted. In reality, however, many chronic sufferers were admitted and, after a few months, they lifted the 6-month limit.
Treatment of TB at the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives was in line with other turn-of-the-20th-century TB sanatoria: plenty of fresh air, lots of food, moderate exercise, and close scrutiny of every aspect of patients' lives. Good food was very apropos: even today poor nutrition is a risk factor for TB.
Patients could expect to sleep outside, or with their heads outside, every night, and were all but gorged with food. In 1911, the annual report records that $3,631 was spent on eggs (roughly $94,888.89 in 2016) for just 120 patients.
In 1978, the hospital, then called the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center, merged with the National Asthma Center (NAC). The NAC was founded in 1907 as a home for Jewish children of tuberculosis patients. At the time of the merger, it was a national residential treatment facility for children with intractable asthma and a research hospital.
National Jewish Health has no formal ties to any religious or quasi-religious institution and gets no funding from B'nai B'rith. Until 1968, the institution only accepted patients without health insurance; all care was free.Now care is still free or heavily subsidized.
National Jewish for six decades cared just for TB, but in the mid-1950s maintained its TB work and built on its pulmonary focus to branch out into asthma and related respiratory ailments. About mid-century, the hospital had the nation's only large inpatient program for adults with asthma; a pediatric program was added in the 1960s.
U.S. News and World Report has ranked National Jewish Health as #1 or #2 every year that the Pulmonology category has been included in the rankings (since 1997). Of those years, National Jewish Health has been ranked in the #1 spot for 17 of those years.ranked National Jewish Health as the leading U.S. respiratory hospital. 
Current departments include:
- Behavioral Health
- Environmental and Occupational Health
- Mycobacterial and Infectious Disease
- Sleep Medicine
The hospital operates Morgridge Academy on its main campus for kindergarten through eighth-grade children who are challenged with chronic illness. The smoking cessation program has helped millions of people via internet and phone to quit tobacco.
These are among National Jewish's collaborations with health care institutions:
- Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver
- Mount Sinai - National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute, New York
- Jane and Leonard Korman Respiratory Institute, Philadelphia
- Rabbi William S. Friedman
- Frances Wisebart Jacobs
- Kimishige Ishizaka, PhD
- John Kappler, PhD
- Philippa Marrack, PhD
- Seraphine Eppstein Pisko
- Cecile Rose, MD
- Andrew Speaker
- Ranked as one of the top two hospitals in pulmonology every year since U.S. News & World Report included this category in its annual “Best Hospitals” survey
- Ranked in the top 1 percent of hospitals in the nation by HCAHPS
- Physicians frequently recognized as among the best in the nation by multiple services, including Best Doctors in America and Castle Connolly
- Among the top 8 percent of organizations funded for research by the NIH, providing patients access to the latest clinical trials
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- "To Help and to Heal, The History of National Jewish Health", 2009
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- Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains, 2003, Random House, New York, p. 234
- "The Inflation Calculator"
- "National Asthma Center", "University of Denver"
- "To Help and to Heal", The History of National Jewish Health, 2009
- "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology", "1989; 83:17-25"
- "National Jewish Health-Denver", "U.S. News & World Report"
- "Private School Review"
- "Quitline Outcomes for Smokers in 6 States: Rates of Successful Quitting Vary by Mental Health Status", "Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco"