The U-M Center for the History of Medicine and AADL are pleased to host Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Oshinsky, Ph.D., as he discusses his new book, Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital, 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.
Oshinsky 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.
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.
The latter decades of the twentieth 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, page-turning, and fascinating, Bellevue is essential American history.
David Oshinsky, Ph.D is a professor in the NYU Department of History and director of the Division of Medical Humanities at the NYU School of Medicine. In 2005, he won the Pulitzer Prize in History for Polio: An American Story. His articles and reviews appear regularly in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author David Oshinsky Discusses His New Book “Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital”