National Jewish Health

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National Jewish Health
National Jewish Hospital1.jpg
National Jewish Health, circa 1920.
Location1400 Jackson Street, Denver, Colorado, United States
Coordinates39°44′21″N 104°56′32″W / 39.73914°N 104.9421°W / 39.73914; -104.9421Coordinates: 39°44′21″N 104°56′32″W / 39.73914°N 104.9421°W / 39.73914; -104.9421
Care systemPrivate, non-profit
Hospital typeSpecialist
Affiliated universityUniversity of Colorado Denver
Emergency departmentN/A
Specialitysee text
ListsHospitals in Colorado

National Jewish Health is an academic medical research facility located in Denver, Colorado.

Founded 119 years ago as a nonprofit hospital, today, National Jewish Health is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to groundbreaking medical research and treatment of patients with respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders. Patients and families come to National Jewish Health from around the world to receive cutting-edge, comprehensive medical care.

It was founded in 1899 to treat tuberculosis.[1] It is a non-sectarian institution but received funding from B'nai B'rith until the 1950s.[2]

The U.S. News and World Report ranks National Jewish Health as the leading respiratory hospital in the nation. [3]

The clean air and sunshine cure[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5]

Treatment of tuberculosis[edit]

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.[6]

Frances Wisebart Jacobs, known as "Mother of Charities", recognized the need for a TB hospital.[7] 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."[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] From its inception, National Jewish has been a non-sectarian institution. As emphasized at the ground-breaking for the hospital on October 9, 1892, it was noted that "…As 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."[11]

To reflect its openness to the impoverished of every background, National Jewish adopted the motto:"None may enter who can pay -- none can pay who enter"[12] 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, the 6-month limit was lifted.[13]

Treatment of TB at the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives (now National Jewish Health) 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

Present mission[edit]

Today, National Jewish Health has no formal ties to any religious or quasi-religious institution and receives no annual funding from B'nai B'rith or any similar organizations. Until 1968, the institution only accepted patients without health insurance and all care was free.[17]In keeping with this philosophy, free or heavily subsidized care is provided to ensure that patients who are in need can receive the care they need.

As early as the mid-1950s, the hospital, a 61-year old tuberculosis institution, turned its attention to asthma and other respiratory diseases, while maintaining treatment and research of tuberculosis. As the decade began, National Jewish had the nation's only large inpatient program for adults with asthma and a pediatric program was added in the 1960s.[18]

The U.S. News & World Report ranks National Jewish Health as the #1 hospital in pulmonology, a ranking it has achieved 17 times. [19]

Since the first patient entered its doors more than a century ago, the hospital has expanded its areas of expertise to include:

Also at National Jewish Health:

  • The hospital operates Morgridge Academy on its main campus for kindergarten through eighth-grade children who are challenged with chronic illness.[20]
  • Nationally renowned smoking cessation program that has assisted millions of people via internet and phone to address the leading cause of behavior-associated, preventable death in the United States - tobacco.[21]

National Jewish Health continues to expand the reach and ability to positively impact the health of children and adults throughout the United States and beyond. Here are a few key collaborations with leading health care institutions:



  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "East Colfax Avenue" , "Denver Public Library"
  2. ^ "History", "B'nai B'rith Denver"
  3. ^ "National Jewish Health-Denver", "U.S. News & World Report"
  4. ^ "How Tuberculosis Fueled Colorado's Growth", "Colorado Public Radio"
  5. ^ "Delivering Aid: Implementing Progressive Era Welfare in the American West", "Thomas A. Krainz"
  6. ^ "Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society - B'nai B'rith Building", ""
  7. ^ "Colorado's Mother of Charities", "Fairmount Cemetery"
  8. ^ "The Rocky Mountain News", October 10, 1892
  9. ^ "The Birth of a Hospital", by Milton Louis Anfenger, 1942
  10. ^ "A Legacy of Service", "B'Nai B'rith Denver"
  11. ^ "The Birth of a Hospital", by Milton Louis Anfenger, 1942
  12. ^ "Colorado’s Healthcare Heritage: A Chronology of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries", "Thomas J. Sherlock", Volume 1 1800- 1899, page 374
  13. ^ "To Help and to Heal, The History of National Jewish Health", 2009
  14. ^ "National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet - Tuberculosis", "U.S. Department of Health & Human Services"
  15. ^ "The Inflation Calculator"
  16. ^ "National Asthma Center", "University of Denver"
  17. ^ "To Help and to Heal", The History of National Jewish Health, 2009
  18. ^ "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology", "1989; 83:17-25"
  19. ^ "National Jewish Health-Denver", "U.S. News & World Report"
  20. ^ "Private School Review"
  21. ^ "Quitline Outcomes for Smokers in 6 States: Rates of Successful Quitting Vary by Mental Health Status", "Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco"

External links[edit]