June, 1953--- I had just graduated from medical school. While on the highway leading to Mt. Sinai to begin my internship, June, my wife, (then and still), realized she was pregnant. Parking at the front door of the hospital we went immediately to the director's office, greeted Sid Lewine and asked for an obstetrics recommendation. Thus, we were quickly enveloped by the hospital's warm and friendly atmosphere, the welcoming nature of its staff and obvious high quality of its medical services. There was a spirit and personal concern no longer seen in today's medical environment. I had found a home, a Mt. Sinai adventure that would provide me with so many opportunities. Now, almost 60 years later, there is not a day that I do not look back on that era at Mt. Sinai with gratitude and appreciation of the many physicians, nurses and technologists and the dedication and quality of care they delivered. The environment was an ideal combination of clinical practice and academic goals.
As a hospital practicing radiologist I had the fortunate opportunity to meet virtually every doctor on the medical staff and to know many of them well. I never found one who didn't try his or her utmost to serve the patient's concerns. There were the early trail-blazers --- Sam Friedlander, the chief of surgery, whose reputation was widespread, was the first thoracic surgeon to perform a lobectomy in the treatment of tuberculosis rather than sacrificing a whole lung. Mortimer Seigel , chief of medicine, set the high bar for the practice of clinical medicine. Rudy Reich was the chairman of orthopedics, Joe Gross, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology, Herb Mahrer, chairman of radiology, Earl Smith, chairman of pediatrics and Harry Goldblatt, the newly appointed chief of pathology. All were dedicated leaders who helped create high standards for their respective staffs. Harry Goldblatt was internationally known for his experimental studies concerning the etiology of hypertension. Both he and his associate Erwin Haas exemplified the highest of personal and scientific standards. I had the good fortune to be associated with them in several experiments. Harry's scholarly manner, personal philosophy, and scientific methods set a tone that all should follow.
Those who followed such as Victor Vertes, Saul Genuth, Richard Aach and Jeff Ponsky, to name a few, set equally high standards and incorporated academics and residency programs affiliated with the University. George Krause and Mortimer Lubert, then co-chiefs of radiology, had national reputations due to their investigations and detection of pulmonary lobar collapse. Both were great role models for me. Their insistence on combining clinical investigations along with clinical practice was unusual for a community hospital and I was fortunate to join such a group of idealistically oriented radiologists. The 70's and 80's brought many scientific and technological advances including the advent of interventional radiology, ultrasound and nuclear medicine. Mt Sinai established these specialties at the very beginnings of their development. Victor Vertes' interest in hypertension and the "Goldblatt Kidney" led to the kidney transplant program directed ably by Leyton Kest and Sidney Cohen. Albert Bennett's introduction of percutaneous catheter angiography in radiology contributed a necessary tool in the selection and management of these patients. Similarly, our acquisition of a scintillation camera shortly after its introduction was vital in the post-operative assessment of transplant recipients. The nuclear camera also permitted Pepe Edelstein to enter the national pulmonary embolism trials. Pepe was succeeded by Dale Adler who expanded the activities of cardiology including the incorporation of nuclear cardiac imaging along with stress testing. Radiation therapy became a separate discipline and the character of Norman Berman was ideal for its leadership. His warmth and empathy were admired by all. He also anticipated the essential use of chemotherapy and the combination with radiation treatments. Later, Dick Bornstein a medical oncologist, entered several national trials in the furtherance of medical treatment of malignant diseases. Bauman Guyuron's reconstructive plastic surgical triumphs hit the newspapers. Wolf Utian's request to the medical advisory board to permit in-vitro fertilization was an exciting event and was dependent on ultrasonography of the ovary. That meeting was recorded and later shown on NOVA. Adoption of this program was typical of Mt. Sinai's progressive philosophy. These advances catapulted radiology from the sedentary, film viewing image it once had to the dynamic field it is today. The challenge to remain one of the leading departments in the community was assisted by the gift of a CAT scan by David and Inez Meyers. As was typical of their philanthropic ideals they asked that there be no charge for patients unable to pay. The board of trustees' commitment to furthering the "excellence" of Mt. Sinai was underscored by the early purchase from the Picker Corporation of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanner(MRI), one of the earliest in the country, enabling Mt. Sinai to perform some of the earliest experiments on MRI at the Picker Corp. plant, and later share these results with the NIH (National Institutes of Health). The purchase catapulted the hospital and our department into national prominence. These are but a few of the many great contributions that distinguished Mt. Sinai Hospital.
I will always believe that it was the doctors that set the tone of the hospital and provided the pressure to excel. But credit is also due to the dedication and support of the board of trustees and the hospital's directors, Sidney Lewine, Barry Spero, and Bob Shakno. Each of them offered their friendship and constructive guidance. They were faced with the conflict between the escalating costs of new technology which affected all disciplines and insufficient insurance reimbursements. I sympathized with and respected the difficult decisions they had to make which were always deeply rooted in their desire to further the needs of the medical staff.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge my former radiology colleagues for their valuable contributions. My predecessors, Herb Mahrer, George Krause, Mortimer Lubert, Norman Berman, Albert Bennett, and Harrison Shapiro are no longer with us. The many who followed maintained the traditions established by Krause and Lubert, a dedication to patients and an insistence to compete at a level with the best in radiology.
The hospital was my life for almost 45 years. It afforded me opportunities for which I am forever grateful. I served as the director of radiology, and was honored to serve as the president of the medical society, chairman of the medical advisory board and the first elected physician to the hospital's board of trustees.
The bricks and mortar of Mt. Sinai are gone. But the memories of a great hospital and great people and a legend of a family that served the community remain. I am currently enjoying an active retired life in Florida, still engaged in helping those less fortunate. On those occasional visits to a doctor's office or hospital I think back on those Mt.Sinai days and realize "It just ain't the same nowadays."
Stephen N. Wiener M.D.