Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Bellevue by David Oshinsky
Knopf Doubleday: 11/15/16
eBook review copy; 400 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9780385523363
Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky is a very highly recommended history of Bellevue, America's oldest hospital and the iconic public hospital in NYC. This is a commanding history of Bellevue, but even more interesting, of American medicine in the USA, and the various people who played a part in the advances in medicine over the years. As it was at the beginning, Bellevue is dedicated to helping people who need help.

Bellevue opened in 1738 as an almshouse and pesthouse. "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." The current facilities, 25-story and 1,200-beds, see more than 600,000 patients annually through emergency rooms and outpatient clinics.

Oshinsky traces the history of Bellevue from the early beginnings of quacks, butchery, bleeding patients, and unchecked epidemics. Bellevue accepted anyone who needed help. It treated various epidemics (cholera, yellow fever, small pox) that swept the city, often taking in dying patients sent form other hospitals. It treated patients with typhus, tuberculosis, influenza, puerperal fever, AIDS, and, recently, Ebola. Bellevue was involved in the research of epidemics and germ theory, worked on reforming public health, treated Civil War soldiers, saw the origin of clinical research, the first ambulance fleet, started the first nursing school for women, and pioneered medical photography and psychiatric treatment. More importantly, Oshinsky covers the many physicians and people in the history of Bellevue and medicine. The list of people involved is long and varied. Currently Bellevue is still committed to its mission to train medical professionals.

This is a fascinating medical history with a focus on Bellevue and NYC. Oshinsky includes comprehensive notes and 16 pages of photographs.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

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