Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Michael Reese Archive: Comments from our readers

In November 1988 the Board of Trustees altered the rules for the appointment of new departmental chairs so that they could be hired directly by the hospital president without a search committee of the professional staff. I personally argued to the other four physician trustees prior to the board of trustees meeting (where this action was to be voted on) that this action would undo the hospital’s standing as an academic medical center. My colleagues agreed but did not speak at the full board meeting after I raised an objection and the proposal passed. This set the stage for the hospital’s eventual decline. In 1989 the hospital proposed that it would become the teaching hospital of the University of Illinois College of Medicine. This would occur with the merger of the University Hospital with Michael Reese and the construction on the Michael Reese campus of a new outpatient structure. The staff of the two hospitals were to be merged. However, the designers of the merger either did not obtain political backing from Illinois legislators or originally did not know that the action would need approval of the State Legislature. The legislature killed the merger. Academic programs that had been integrated with the University of Chicago were dissolved and a new attenuated program was arranged with the University of Illinois. After the failed merger the hospital essentially declined into a community hospital and was sold to Humana; Humana’s interest was not for the hospital, which was losing money, but for the Michael Reese Health Plan, a well-organized HMO. In the sale, Arthur Anderson (the hospital’s auditors) would not certify the hospital’s audit and the sale price was reduced by millions.

Today the hospital “survives” as the Michael Reese Trust with 100 million dollars.

SIDNEY WEISSMAN, MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University (Resident in Psychiatry 1967–1969; Attending Staff 1971–1990; Member Board of Trustees 1986–1988; Paid Staff member 1972–1088).

This is absolutely wonderful! As a dedicated MRH employee from 1966–1995 (when the omniscient Administration decimated practically the entire Social Work Department, and I went to work for Northwestern) I still mourn the loss of this great institution. I’m still closely following an 88-year-old patient whom I first met in 1969, a Jewish woman who’d begun her care there back in the ’50s and remembers paying 10 cents to see a doctor in Mandel Clinic! The hospital was always near and dear to her heart, so compassionate in the provision of its medical and social services, and she, too, misses Michael Reese more than I can say. There must be countless thousands of people who have felt the same way, and it will be a great privilege to read the archives. Thank you so much for your efforts to keep the memories of this unique institution alive. In my not-so-humble opinion the best thing that ever happened to Northwestern was the influx of physicians from Michael Reese!


This is such an amazing project. It’s always dismaying to hear of the closing of a historic institution. We were worried about the legacy of the hospital, but it sounds like you have a great start. “The Chicago Area Medical Archivists are grateful to the Hektoen Institute and the Michael Reese Research and Education Foundation for preserving the legacy of such an important part of Chicago’s rich medical history and the history of Jews in Chicago. We thank you, and future researchers thank you!”

NATHALIE WHEATON, Assistant Archivist, Rush University Medical Center CAMA Web Moderator – https://chicagoareamedicalarchivists.blogspot.com/

Related articles

Michael Reese Hospital – Beginnings
Michael Reese Hospital – Neighborhood and patients
Michael Reese Hospital – Nurses, interns, and residents
Michael Reese Hospital – Physicians
Michael Reese Hospital – Pediatrics

Fall 2013



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