National Jewish Health

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National Jewish Health
National Jewish Hospital1.jpg
National Jewish Health, circa 1920.
Location 1400 Jackson Street, Denver, Colorado, United States
Coordinates 39°44′21″N 104°56′32″W / 39.73914°N 104.9421°W / 39.73914; -104.9421Coordinates: 39°44′21″N 104°56′32″W / 39.73914°N 104.9421°W / 39.73914; -104.9421
Care system Private, non-profit
Hospital type Specialist
Affiliated university University of Colorado Denver
Emergency department N/A
Beds 46[1]
Speciality see text
Founded 1899
Lists Hospitals in Colorado

National Jewish Health is an academic medical research facility located in Denver, Colorado specializing in respiratory, cardiac, immune and allergic disorders. It was founded in 1899 to treat tuberculosis. It is a non-sectarian institution but received funding from B'nai B'rith until the 1950s.[2]

Today, clinical functions at National Jewish include research, diagnosis, and ambulatory outpatient care.

The clean air and sunshine cure

By the late 19th century, Colorado and the American Southwest had become famous for the health benefits of a dry, sunny climate. At that time, the only known treatment for tuberculosis (TB) was clean air and sunshine and hundreds of people with tuberculosis descended upon Denver in hopes of finding a miracle cure for what was then the nation’s leading cause of death. Consequently, many TB sufferers spent their last dollars coming to Colorado. By the 1890s, it was estimated that one out of every three residents of the state was there for respiratory reasons. However, no facilities existed to provide treatment or shelter to these victims. In Denver, victims of TB were literally dying in the streets as boarding houses often banned "lungers," as they were called.[3][4]

Treatment of tuberculosis

It was obvious that the Denver community at large was not sympathetic to the plight of needy TB sufferers, and many argued that "we can’t blacken the name of the city" by making it a TB refuge. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, known as "Mother of Charities", recognized the need for a TB hospital. After joining forces with a young rabbi, William Sterne Friedman, the two raised enough money to buy some land and erect a building, and the laying of the hospital’s cornerstone on October 9, 1892 drew huge crowds. The original hospital was completed in 1893 and was to be named the Francis Wisebart Jacobs Hospital after its founder. Unfortunately, due to the combination of the "Silver Crisis of 1893" and a national depression, the hospital did not open and it sat vacant for six years until William Sterne Friedman approached B'nai B'rith, a national Jewish organization, and persuaded them to raise the required operating funds on an annual basis. When the hospital opened on December 10, 1899, it had a new name; National Jewish Hospital for Treatment of Consumptives (consumption is an old name for TB that describes how the highly contagious illness wastes away or consumes its victims). B'nai B'rith continued to support the hospital until the early 1950s.

T.B. patients enjoying sunshine.

From its inception, National Jewish has been a non-sectarian institution. As emphasized at the ground-breaking for the hospital on October 9, 1892, it was noted that "….As pain knows no creed, so is this building the prototype of the grand idea of Judaism, which casts aside no stranger no matter of what race or blood. We consecrate this structure to humanity, to our suffering fellowman, regardless of creed." In fact, the first patient to enter the hospital, on December 11, 1899, was a Protestant Swedish woman from Minnesota. To reflect its openness to the impoverished of every background, National Jewish adopted the motto:

"None may enter who can pay -- none can pay who enter"[2]

The B'nai Brith building at National Jewish Health today.

The hospital opened with a capacity of 60 patients with the goal of treating 150 patients a year. In the beginning, a 6-month limit on patient stays was imposed and only patients in the early stages of TB were to be accepted. In reality, however, many chronic sufferers were admitted and, after a few months, the 6-month limit was lifted. Treatment of TB at National Jewish was in line with other turn-of-the-20th-century TB sanatoria: plenty of fresh air, lots of food, moderate exercise, and close scrutiny of every aspect of patients' lives. The inhabitants of National Jewish could expect to sleep outside, or with their heads outside, every night, and were all but gorged with food. For example, in 1911, the annual report records that $3,631 was spent on eggs (roughly $70,000 today[5]) for just 120 patients.[3]

Present mission

Additional building on the National Jewish Hospital campus

Today, National Jewish Health has no formal ties to any religious or quasi-religious institution and receives no annual funding from B'nai B'rith or any similar organizations. Until 1968, the institution only accepted patients without Health insurance and all care was free.[4] In keeping with this philosophy, free or heavily subsidized care is provided to ensure that patients who are in need can receive the care they need. At the opening of National Jewish Health back in 1899, the president of the institution, speaking of TB in the heightened rhetoric of that day, declared that it was his dream for the hospital "that its doors may never close again until the terrible scourge is driven from the earth." Now, at a time when the World Health Organization estimates that one out of every three people[6] in the world is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, (the bacteria causes 5-10% of carriers to develop active TB in their lifetime) those doors are still open.

American Health magazine termed National Jewish Health one of the finest U. S. hospitals in allergy, immunology and pulmonology for both adult and pediatric patients The Institute for Science and Medicine rated National Jewish Health among the top 10 independent biomedical research institutions-of any kind-in the world, and the only one that also provides patient care. For the 21st year, National Jewish Health has been named a top respiratory hospital by U.S. News & World Report in its ranking of the best hospitals in the nation. National Jewish Health has ranked as one of the top two hospitals in pulmonology every year that the magazine has evaluated this category. They have held the #1 spot for 16 years, including on the 2017-2018 list.[7]

As National Jewish Health is a leader in the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis, Andrew Speaker, an individual suspected to have XDR-TB under federal quarantine, was moved to the hospital for treatment on May 31, 2007.[8] The Mycobacteriology Laboratory at National Jewish Health determined that Speaker did not have the Extensive Drug resistant form of TB (XDR-TB), but rather the Multi-Drug Resistant form of TB (MDR-TB).

In August 2007, National Jewish doctors treated XDR-TB patient Robert Daniels, following his nearly year-long quarantine in a Maricopa County hospital jail ward. After an extensive legal battle, Daniels was sent to National Jewish Hospital where the Mycobacteriology Laboratory diagnosed Daniels with MDR-TB (rather than XDR-TB). In addition to treating his TB, doctors at National Jewish also removed Daniels' entire left lung.[9]


  • John Kappler - professor in the Department of Integrated Immunology
  • Seraphine Eppstein Pisko (1861-1942), executive secretary of the National Jewish Hospital from 1911 to 1938[10]
  • Dr. Cecile Rose - pulmonary specialist - first physician to warn federal agencies that consumers, not just flavoring or food factory workers, may be in danger of contracting bronchiolitis obliterans[11][12]
  • John Streltzer - former Colorado legislator, U.S. Customs Director, and President of National Jewish Health's predecessor institutions

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "The History and Mission of Health". Archived from the original on 2006-01-14. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  3. ^ a b Jeff Bradley; Michael Iseman. "National Jewish: The 100-Year War Against TB". Division of Tuberculosis Elimination (DTBE) - TIMS Course Schedule. Archived from the original on 2003-04-27. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  4. ^ a b "A Brief History of National Jewish". Archived from the original on 2007-04-15. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  5. ^ NASA New Start Index Inflation Calculator Archived 2007-11-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Tuberculosis Fact Sheet: World Heath Organization
  7. ^ "Best Hospitals 2013-14 Specialty Search: Respiratory Disorders". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2013-07-16. 
  8. ^ " TB Patient moved to Denver hospital, May 31, 2007". May 31, 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  9. ^ "TB patient readies for surgery to remove lung". Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
  10. ^ "Mrs. Seraphine Pisko, Honorary Secretary of the National Jewish Hospital" New York Times (July 31, 1942): 15. via ProQuest
  11. ^ Letter from Cecile Rose to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine., from
  12. ^ David Michaels (2007). Popcorn Lung Coming to Your Kitchen? The FDA Doesn’t Want to Know, a blog post at

External links

  • Educational training at National Jewish
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