On November 30, 2016, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Oshinsky spoke about the evolution and future of America’s public hospitals during a recent Southwestern Medical Foundation event at Old Parkland.

“Guarding the Nation’s Health: The Role of America’s Great Public Hospitals” was part of the Leading the Conversation on Health series created by the Foundation to bring together a community of thought leaders to provide a means to better understand the extraordinary strides being made in academic medicine, education and clinical care in the Dallas area.

Oshinsky won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story. His new book is Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital (Doubleday). He spoke Nov. 30 in the Debate Chamber at Old Parkland in an event co-hosted by Southwestern Medical Foundation and Humanities Texas.

conversation-104“We are honored to host David Oshinsky, who eloquently tells the remarkable story of Bellevue—one of the greatest—public hospitals and its role in transforming and improving public health in our country,” said Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of the Foundation.

Oshinsky graduated from Cornell, earned a PhD. from Brandeis University, and is Professor Emeritus and holds the Jack S. Blanton Chair Emeritus in history at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a distinguished scholar in residence at New York University and is Director of the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Medical Center.

His Pulitzer-winning Polio: An American Story was the source for the 2009 PBS documentary The Polio Crusade. He is also a recipient of the Dean's Medal from the Bloomberg-Johns Hopkins School of Public Health for his distinguished contributions to the field.

Oshinsky’s latest book, Bellevue, has earned widespread acclaim for its rich history of America’s public hospital system. USA Today called it “compelling” and The New York Times said “Mr. Oshinsky's chapters about the early history of medicine are especially, distractingly, interesting — so much so that they'll inspire you to read them aloud to anyone who'll listen.”

While Bellevue is often associated with New York City’s downtrodden, Oshinsky points out in his book that the hospital has grown into an elite training ground for health care workers, and its physicians have made major discoveries in preventing or treating HIV, Ebola, hepatitis and tuberculosis. Bellevue is home to the country’s first ambulance service and maternity ward, the first cadaver kidney transplant, the first mitral valve replacement, and the first nursing school.

conversation-76“The history and future of public hospitals like Bellevue in New York and Parkland in Dallas are deeply imbedded in our popular culture,” said Oshinsky.  “I’d like to thank Southwestern Medical Foundation and Humanities Texas for supporting a discussion on the tremendous evolution of medical practice and discovery in the United States.”

Oshinsky was introduced at the event by Foundation Trustee Harlan Crow, whose Crow Holdings restored the Old Parkland Hospital campus. In 2011, history came full circle when the Foundation moved back to the historic Old Parkland campus. The Foundation’s new offices are on the original site of Southwestern Medical College, the medical school it founded in 1943, which has evolved into today's world-renowned UT Southwestern.

“On behalf of Southwestern Medical Foundation, it is my privilege to welcome Dr. David Oshinsky to tell us his fascinating tale about Bellevue,” said Crow. “The founder of Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern – Dr. Edward H. Cary – attended Bellevue and brought back the idea that the great medical schools should associate with the best teaching hospitals.  Our Dallas medical school was built on the Old Parkland campus so that a great school and a great teaching hospital could together advance health care for all of our community.”

The community’s welfare was a top priority for Dr. Cary (1872-1953). Having trained as a physician at Bellevue from 1895 to 1898, he came to Dallas with a vision to advance medical education and scientific research in the “medical wilderness” of the Southwestern U.S. Dr. Cary dedicated his entire adult life to creating the standards for medical practice in the Southwest and ultimately to starting a foundation and medical school built on the belief that all citizens should have access to the highest quality of care.

The event also featured opening and closing remarks by Southwestern Medical Foundation Chairman Robert B. Rowling.

“I’d like to thank David Oshinsky for talking about the pivotal role our great public hospitals like Parkland have played in advancing public health,” Rowling said. “Our teaching hospitals in the medical district benefit greatly from the groundbreaking research being done at UT Southwestern. Thanks to the generosity of the donors to Southwestern Medical Foundation, we will continue to support the important mission of advancing academic medicine in our community for many years to come.”

For photos from the event, please click here.