A lot can happen in 125 years.
For Temple University Hospital, however, the more things change the more they stay the same.
The hospital recently turned a ripe old 125, and its staff is reflecting on the milestone.
While the technology and medical procedures its physicians and students learn and perform has certainly advanced in even the last 10 years, the traditions of the hospital and its commitment to providing care to the community has been unwavering.
“We have always maintained a major commitment to the community that we serve, and there’s been a commitment obviously to educate future generations here as well,” said Larry Kaiser, the Lewis Katz dean at the School of Medicine, president and CEO of Temple University Health System, and senior executive vice president for health affairs for Temple University.
“The tie-in with Temple University has been certainly responsible for that,” Kaiser continued. “It’s a very competitive environment but Temple’s been here a long time, the University Hospital’s been here a long time and the commitment to education and care for the community has withstood the test of time.”
To reflect on its history means also looking at its deep connection with the Jewish community in Philadelphia, starting back in 1884 when a Baptist minister named Russell Conwell established an evening school, Temple College, on the second floor of his church.
“In 1884, what he did was most unusual,” noted Leon Malmud, Herbert M. Stauffer professor of radiology and professor of medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, and former dean of the School of Medicine, former president and CEO of Temple University Health System and former senior vice president for Temple University.
“The charter said the school was open to all: men, women, regardless of religion, and that included Protestants, Catholics and Jews,” Malmud said.
Around the same time, Philadelphia was a “hotbed” for the know-nothings, Malmud added, who were anti-“anything that wasn’t traditional Protestant.”
“And here was Russell Conwell, a Baptist minister, saying, ‘I’m establishing this evening school as an opportunity for students who are working during the day and can’t afford to go to college to start a college education with me and in addition to that, not only is it open to members of my church but to anyone, regardless of their religion.’ That was an extraordinary event in Philadelphia history,” Malmud said.
By 1901, the evening school had expanded and Conwell opened up a medical school, which also operated in the evening. Converting two Victorian homes into the 20-bed Samaritan Hospital on Broad Street, Conwell created the predecessor of Temple University Hospital, which still stands in the same location.
“The hospital’s charter still hangs on our wall and says we will take care of all patients, regardless of ability to pay, and, in addition, the hospital has been open to patients of any religion and any ethnicity,” Malmud said.
For Jews, this openness was especially important.
“Those of us who are Jewish, these were important events, but in many of those years, Jews were excluded being admitted to hospitals that were not Jewish, which is the reason that the Jewish community in Philadelphia established three Jewish hospitals,” Malmud explained, naming the Jewish Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and Northern Liberties Hospital — all of which merged to become what is now known as the more familiar Einstein Medical Center.
Other than those, he continued, there were few hospitals that would allow Jewish doctors on their staff. Temple was an early exception.
“Clearly, the majority of the staff was Christian,” he said, but “at the same time, many of the earliest leaders in Temple’s clinical departments and medical school were Jewish.”
He pointed to the medical school’s history of Jewish deans as well (including himself and Kaiser), such as Sol Sherry, who revolutionized the treatment of heart attacks with the development of thrombolytic therapy and after whom the school’s Thrombosis Research Center is named.
Temple’s medical school — Lewis Katz School of Medicine — itself had a long connection with Einstein. In 1928, it established a teaching relationship with Einstein. Einstein doctors taught Temple students clinical skills and, in turn, obtained faculty appointments, a difficult achievement for a Jewish physician, Malmud said.
For Malmud, Temple’s longstanding tradition to being open to all regardless of religion stands out, especially as he’s served on the admissions committee of the medical school and proudly stated that Temple has never had a quota system for accepting Jews as other schools have.
“If you read about America’s medical education, you will read that at some schools including Harvard, there were strict quotas on the number of Jews that they would accept. That was not unusual at that time to have quotas. I can tell you firsthand that in my years at Temple there has been no such quota.”
For Kaiser, looking ahead to the hospital’s next 125 years doesn’t look much different from its past — though the technology they use may advance.
“The role of the hospital now sort of is twofold,” he said. “One is to continue with the commitment that Temple has always had to serve an underserved population that surrounds us — remember that North Philadelphia is an underserved area, very poor — and the commitment has never wavered here. While at the same time, we are an academic medical center doing all these high-end procedures: lung transplantation, heart transplant, liver transplant, kidney transplant, high-end heart surgery, neurosurgery.
“Temple University Hospital really fulfills both roles, that is being [a] high-end academic medical center doing complex procedures and taking care of the community.”
That also has included furthering its commitment to other areas such as cancer care with the 2011 acquisition of the Fox Chase Cancer Center.
While health care and insurance policies may change (especially given the foggy future of the Affordable Care Act), Kaiser said the mission to serve their community is steadfast and they are prepared for whatever changes the future brings.
The commitment to education — for both medical students as well as those who complete their postgraduate studies at the hospital — is one piece that stands out to Kaiser about its legacy.
“We’re an educational institution and our focus is on education here, and the reason we have the hospital is not just to serve the community, but also to educate our students, so those go hand in hand,” he said. “So we’re an educational institution and that is our focus, we’ll continue to provide an outstanding education for students who come here.”
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0740