Rosenfeld and Rosenberg chose a single charity, the Hebrew Relief Association of Chicago, whose project for a three-story, 60-bed Jewish hospital had long been a priority for city’s Jewish community. The gift—a little more than $4.9 million in today’s dollars—came with just two conditions: that the hospital be named after Michael Reese and that it welcome everyone, regardless of creed or nationality.
On October 23, 1881, the new Michael Reese Hospital opened its doors. It had been built to relieve suffering—to meet the basic human need for care in times of illness or injury. Yet almost from the start, it would also help revolutionize the practice of medicine in the U.S.
The hospital had been born in an age of explosive growth in scientific theory and research, much of it taking place in European universities. Reese physicians—many of whom had trained at those universities—not only followed these developments but grasped their significance for care. With the support of hospital administrators and committed donors, doctors at Reese began using new knowledge to improve treatment, procedures, training, and even equipment. They adopted scientific methods to study health at the level of the patient and of the population, and they assessed the outcomes of each new standard of care they established.
With each decade, the Reese tradition of improving treatment through science-based innovation grew, as did the hospital’s size and reputation. At its closing, the Reese complex included 2,400 beds and 29 buildings dedicated to patient care, research, and training.
The impact of the Reese tradition was acknowledged as early as 1955, when Time magazine noted “Everybody on Chicago’s South Side—and in United States Medicine—knows what Michael Reese is: a first rate hospital center that treats countless charity cases as well as paying patients.”