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On Founders Day, Cedars-Sinai Looks to Its Past

Leo Gordon, MD, medical adviser to the Cedars-Sinai Historical Conservancy, drew on documents and photos to illustrate the medical center's transformation.

A capacity crowd filled Harvey Morse Auditorium on June 6 for the inaugural celebration of Cedars-Sinai Founders Day, an occasion that was by turns solemn, joyous and funny. The event marked both the anniversary of Cedars-Sinai's opening in its current location and the debut of a Historical Conservancy exhibit about the medical center's past.

Founders Day marked the debut of an exhibit tracing the history of Cedars-Sinai. The exhibit of photos, documents and artifacts is in the hallway outside the Medical Library, on the Plaza Level of the South Tower.

In addition to the lunchtime history presentation and the new exhibit, Founders Day included the Dr. Leon Morgenstern Great Debates in Clinical Medicine Resident Competition.

The presentation and exhibit focused on the first 74 years of the institution's 112-year history, from the medical center's start in 1902 as Kaspare Cohn Hospital, to the merger of two hospitals in 1961 to form Cedars-Sinai, to the move to the present location on June 6, 1976.

"With their merger, Cedars of Lebanon and Mount Sinai hospitals formed a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts," said Jonathan Schreiber, director of Community Engagement.

"In all the iterations of our hospital, first as Kaspare Cohn and Bikur Cholim, then later as the iconic Mount Sinai Home for the Incurables; and even today as a renowned, world-class medical center, some things have never changed," Schreiber said. "We were formed as two separate institutions to care for those in need, and we relied on the contributions of staff, physicians and the community in order to make our care exceptional."

Tom Priselac, president and CEO, praised the generations of remarkable people whose dreams "willed Cedars-Sinai into existence."

"This is an opportune time to reflect on how the organization came to be," Priselac said. "When an idea becomes a reality, sometimes we come to think it was always meant to be. In reality, it was anything but that. Cedars-Sinai was not a foregone conclusion."

Vivid proof of the transformation of Kaspare Cohn Hospital into the Cedars-Sinai of today was offered by Leo Gordon, MD, medical adviser to the Historical Conservancy. Gordon and the late Leo Morgenstern, MD, the medical center's longtime chief of Surgery, led the push for a historical conservancy at Cedars-Sinai.

Jonathan Schreiber, director of Community Engagement, (right) leads a tour of the Historical Conservancy exhibit.

Drawing from documents, artifacts and photographs in the Historical Conservancy, many of which he collected, Gordon drew appreciative laughs from the audience as he offered a time capsule of how Cedars-Sinai has changed through the decades.

Referring to an anesthesia bill from 1937, he noted that the patient was charged $4 per day for his hospital stay — and was billed 30 cents for a telephone call. A photograph from 1962 showed the medical center's first intensive care unit. A memo from the 1970s bemoaned the cost of feeding the medical center's hungry residents.

"This is the connective tissue of Cedars-Sinai," Gordon said, referring to the collection of facts, artifacts and memories that make up the history of Cedars-Sinai. "It tells us who we are."

The second annual Founders Day celebration is scheduled for Friday, June 5, 2015.

Employees and medical staff members who have worked at Cedars-Sinai since 1976 or earlier took part in a Founders Day panel discussion. Panelists were (from left) Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, vice president and chief nursing officer; Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, vice president, Clinical Innovation; Ilean Smith, DTR, administrative coordinator, Food and Nutrition Services; and Steve Simons, MD, medical director, Medical Affairs for Quality/Performance Improvement.

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