On this Fourth of July, as we celebrate the birth of America’s independence, we reflect on many things that make our country great. Through every hardship our community has faced, medical and philanthropic leaders have carried us through, establishing a legacy of determined resilience and perseverance. We take this moment to recognize stars who have shined brightly throughout our history, with bravery and strength that continues to inspire us today.

Celebrating Health Care Heroes

Southwestern Medical Foundation is pleased to honor one of our heroes and Trustees – Harlan Crow.

Harlan Crow holding a microphone

Harlan Crow at Southwestern Medical Foundation’s 2014 Leading the Conversation on Health discussion series.

As a longtime supporter of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern Medical Center, Mr. Crow recognizes that history teaches lessons which are vital in shaping progress and creating a better future. In 2008, he completed restoration of the historic Old Parkland Hospital – the region’s first public hospital which opened in May 1894. At the time, infectious disease was the leading cause of death. Upon its opening, the hospital immediately and dramatically improved the quality of health care in Dallas.

Watch the video below to learn more about the restoration of the Old Parkland Campus:

Southwestern Medical Foundation now offices on the Old Parkland campus where Southwestern Medical College was formed. The Medical College’s original buildings remained on campus from 1943 to 1958 by Old Parkland Hospital. So it has been inspiring to be on a campus that has meant so much to all the citizens of this region in advancing health care as we know it today.

To honor the tradition of the campus’ service to the advancement of health care, Mr. Crow recently commissioned a portrait of Clara Maass, which will initially hang in the offices of Southwestern Medical Foundation. Clara is recognized as a heroic figure in the history of American medicine. She remains an inspiration to our country currently facing today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Her story serves as an everlasting reminder of profound challenges and personal sacrifices, which led to medical discovery and improved care.

A Story of Sacrifice 

Portrait of Clara Maass

Clara Maass’s portrait will commemorate her life and the ultimate sacrifice she made for humankind. Photo courtesy of The Clara Maass Medical Center.

Born in New Jersey in 1876 to impoverished German immigrants, Clara was the eldest of ten children. While in elementary school, she worked as a mother’s helper to alleviate the financial burden on her family – an experience that piqued her interest in nursing.

Clara entered a training school for nurses and completed the two-year program at age 19. She quickly excelled as a nurse and mastered new ideas in patient care, developing an exceptional skillset in educating on the prevention of infection and spread of disease through cleanliness and handwashing.

She possessed a deep desire to ease pain and suffering. During the Spanish American War, she volunteered as a nurse to care for soldiers with infectious diseases in Cuba and the Philippines. During the war, more soldiers died of yellow fever than were killed from battle, and efforts were underway to determine the cause of the disease.

Scientists had already established the disease was carried by mosquitos to humans. They began studying a potential cure for yellow fever and recruited human subjects into what was the first recorded instance of informed consent human experiments.

Volunteers were paid for their participation, while warned they could lose their lives. Clara was one of 19 participants who volunteered, was exposed to infected mosquitos, and contracted a mild case of yellow fever.

Researchers had hoped that Clara’s mild case would produce immunity against the disease. Unfortunately, she died soon after contracting yellow fever. Major New York City newspapers carried the story of her death, noting that the $100 fee she

Painting of Clara Maass

Clara Maass “Sacrifice” – Cuba, 1901. This painting by Stephen Kirk Richards depicts Clara Maass undergoing an experimental procedure during the yellow fever pandemic. The procedure was part of an early medical trial led by the United States Army in the spring of 1901.

received for participating in the experiment was forwarded to her mother to help with finances at home. Her death stirred public sentiment and ended yellow fever experiments on human beings.

Her death, however, was not in vain, as the research ultimately led to a successful vaccine. Today the Clara Maass Medical Center in Newark stands to memorialize her great sacrifice and courage.

Like Clara in the midst of the yellow fever pandemic, many health care workers today stand as examples of sacrifice and courage. Their roles are nothing short of heroic, putting their own safety on the line to provide compassionate care to the sick.

As we celebrate the spirit of sacrifice and service, we take time to honor and remember these fearless heroes in our midst.