Jewish Hospital was founded in Louisville in 1903 under the guiding principle of tikkun olam, an ancient Hebrew phrase that means “healing of the world.”
“According to the Bible, it refers to Jews as being charged to partner with God in mending this world that is not yet whole,” says Rabbi Dr. Nadia Siritsky, vice president of mission for KentuckyOne Health.
It’s also a cultural tradition. “Jewish people have been refugees and immigrants since Biblical times,” says Siritsky. “The Bible says that as Jews left their bondage in Egypt, we should be kind to the stranger because we know what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land.”
Those principles have guided Jewish Hospital over the years. It was a pioneer in serving the African-American community. In 1945, the hospital’s trustees approved a request from the Red Cross Hospital (which served black Louisvillians at the time) that Jewish Hospital manage and partially staff its nursing needs. In the 1950s, Jewish Hospital opened its staff to black physicians. In 1980, Dr. William Moses became the first African-American president of the Jewish Hospital medical staff.
More recently, it has pioneered outreach programs to poor communities, homeless and uninsured Louisville residents, waves of refugees and, always, needy children.
This history and tradition will inform part the presentation “Jewish Hospital: Past-Present-Future,” on Sunday, Aug. 21. The event is co-sponsored by the Louisville Historical League.
Celebration of the hospital’s past will clearly be part of the program – but only a part. As the title suggests, discussions will include the present, as part of KentuckyOne Health, since that system was formed in 2012, bringing together the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and Saint Joseph Health System, along with the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. The future also will be discussed, as KentuckyOne seeks to pioneer cutting-edge technology and health care delivery and make it accessible to those struggling in a 21st century digital world.
Cardiologist Dr. Morris Weiss Jr., of KentuckyOne Health Cardiology Associates, will speak to the past – a past that has involved the 81-year-old physician for much of his life. His father, Morris Weiss Sr., was a pioneer cardiologist who, in 1951, nominated the first African-American physician to become a member of the all-white Jefferson County Medical Society. Weiss Sr. also championed allowing black doctors to practice at Jewish Hospital, and welcomed African-Americans as patients.
“Before that, African-Americans had a separate Red Cross hospital,” said Dr. Weiss Jr., who has published a history of African-American medicine in Louisville.
But it wasn’t just social and community initiatives. Jewish Hospital performed Western’s Kentucky’s first kidney transplant (1964); Kentucky’s first adult open heart surgery (1965); first adult heart transplant (1984); first kidney/pancreas transplant (1987); first heart/lung transplant (1988); first adult liver transplant (1990); first double lung transplant (1995); and first successful human hand transplant (1999). In 2012, Jewish doctors were part of the world’s first intercontinental kidney paired donation.
In 1988, Jewish was Kentucky’s first hospital designated as a federally approved heart, liver, lung and kidney transplant center.
The present and beyond
In addition to a rich history, Jewish Hospital touts a list of current accomplishments. In 2015, for example, KentuckyOne was the first health care system in Louisville to use MediGuide technology, a GPS-like device to correct heart rhythm problems.
In 2016-16, US News & World Report rated KentuckyOne as having one of the top heart, COPD and hip replacement procedures in the country.
To that end, Richard Schultz, chairman of the board of KentuckyOne Health, will handle the present, telling the story, according to Rabbi Siritsky, of how Jewish Hospital and the various other partners came together to form the new health care system.
Following the merger, the hospital participated in back-to-school fairs with the Northwest Neighborhood Place and Shawnee Newcomer Academy, providing medical care, screening, education and resources to residents of Shawnee. It also has hosted busloads of refugees and immigrants from Catholic Charities, the La Casita Center and Kentucky Refugee Ministries, offering health resources and connecting those people to health screenings and physical exams.
Finally, Rabbi Siritsky and obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, KentuckyOne’s chief medical officer, will discuss the future – a future, says Siritsky, “that provides us with opportunities to re-examine how we deliver care in a truly changing economy and society, with health care itself changing at such a rapid pace.”
There are always new opportunities for medical development, she says, “always more to do – whether in advanced cardiac care or advocating for victims of human trafficking – to make this community a healthier place.”
Among the new innovations in KentuckyOne’s arsenal are:
Health Connections Initiative – a project to help discharged patients at risk for readmission by providing community health workers and peer support specialists to go with them to follow-up visits and manage some of the other complexities of their lives.
“We have have scientific evidence of success in helping people who had been returning to the hospital eight to 10 times a year not have to return to the hospital even once, because of their improved health outcomes,” says Siritsky. “It also improved their sense of self and competency in terms of being able to manage their health by themselves.”
Anywhere Care – a program that allows patients, wherever they are, to call through Skype and get access to a health care provider. “They don’t need to leave their home, they can reach us wherever or whenever,” Siritsky says. “So many people choose not to go to the doctor because it’s so inconvenient to get there. This is our commitment to help make wellness as accessible as possible, regardless of ability to pay.”
Arise to Safety – a domestic violence prevention effort that will test a standardized screening protocol at Jewish Hospital and University Louisville Hospital to identify those at the highest risk of serious injury or worse and immediately connect them with emergency shelter, transportation and case management.
“Research shows that many people seek medical care as a result of domestic violence, but without a standardized method to proactively screen for it, many instances of abuse go undetected,” says Siritsky.
TeleHealth – a new field of medicine using remote systems either to deliver care or ensure compliance, such as managing chronic care, by having someone check in to make sure you’re following up with your doctors’ programs.
“One of the advantages of Jewish Hospital becoming part of KentuckyOne is that we have a greater ability both to impact the broader community and to access more cutting-edge resources,” Siritsky says. That’s what our presentation wants to emphasize, says the ordained rabbi, interfaith chaplain and social worker and former rabbi at The Temple, who joined KentuckyOne Health in 2014.
In the interim, she got her doctorate degree, worked in hospice, and helped develop a palliative care consulting team at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
“The 12th century Jewish prophet Maimonides talked about a golden charity ladder of giving and helping,” says Siritsky. “The top rung of the ladder is to help people so they no longer need help. Those are Jewish values, but they also guide the KentuckyOne approach.”
Jewish Hospital: Past-Present-Future
•Sunday, Aug. 21, 2-3 p.m.
•Jewish Hospital Rudd Heart & Lung Building, 201 Abraham Flexner Way, in the Hank Wagner Conference Center on the building’s conference level.
•The presentation is free, and there also will be free parking in the visitors parking garage, off of Muhammad Ali Boulevard near Brook Street. Free valet parking, as well.