From a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian comes a riveting history of New York's iconic public hospital that charts the turbulent rise of American medicine.
Bellevue Hospital, on New York City's East Side, occupies a colorful and horrifying place in the public imagination: a den of mangled crime victims, vicious psychopaths, assorted derelicts, lunatics, and exotic-disease sufferers. In its two and a half centuries of service, there was hardly an epidemic or social catastrophe - or groundbreaking scientific advance - that did not touch Bellevue.
David Oshinsky, whose last book, Polio: An American Story, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, chronicles the history of America's oldest hospital and in so doing also charts the rise of New York to the nation's preeminent city, the path of American medicine from butchery and quackery to a professional and scientific endeavor, and the growth of a civic institution. From its origins in 1738 as an almshouse and pesthouse, Bellevue today is a revered public hospital bringing first-class care to anyone in need. With its diverse, ailing, and unprotesting patient population, the hospital was a natural laboratory for the nation's first clinical research. It treated tens of thousands of Civil War soldiers, launched the first civilian ambulance corps and the first nursing school for women, pioneered medical photography and psychiatric treatment, and spurred New York City to establish the country's first official board of health.
As medical technology advanced, "voluntary" hospitals began to seek out patients willing to pay for their care. For charity cases it was left to Bellevue to fill the void. The latter decades of the 20th century brought rampant crime, drug addiction, and homelessness to the nation's struggling cities - problems that called a public hospital's very survival into question. It took the AIDS crisis to cement Bellevue's enduring place as New York's ultimate safety net, the iconic hospital of last resort.
Lively, pause-resisting, fascinating, Bellevue is essential American history.
"No other hospital is as embedded in our culture as Bellevue. David Oshinsky's biography of this grand dame of America's public hospitals is a page-turner, a tale of immigrants and epidemics, politicians and physicians, natural disasters and acts of terrorism, all of which shaped Bellevue, just as they shaped a city and a nation. Public policy at its best and worst comes alive. Oshinsky has captured the spirit, the resilience that is Bellevue, a quality that rubs off on the legions who have trained there. A wonderful read!" (Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone)
"Bellevue is a tale of medicine's tragedies and triumphs in the cauldron of New York City. In vivid prose, David Oshinsky portrays caregivers who, through the centuries, selflessly served the neediest and the unwanted, as well as researchers who pushed the boundaries of clinical knowledge, all the while battling bureaucrats and social indifference. This is a story of America's most esteemed public hospital that will both enlighten and inspire." (Jerome Groopman, MD, author of How Doctors Think)
"David Oshinsky's Bellevue is American history at its very finest. It's impossible to understand our nation's public health advancements without reading this authoritative retelling of New York City's storied hospital. A masterpiece of scholarship." (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast)
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