Healthcare Access for All
One institution’s mission to provide education and medical care to its underserved community
Michael B. Prystowsky | | Opinion
My travels to international scientific meetings and inspections of clinical laboratories from India to Guantanamo Bay over the years have shown me a diversity of healthcare systems. These experiences have opened my eyes to the social and economic challenges faced by underserved communities across the globe – and the resulting inequities in their access to quality healthcare. As chair of the pathology department at an academic medical center in one of the poorest counties in the United States, I find that we are quite fortunate to deliver the highest quality of pathology services to the people living in the Bronx.
Montefiore Medical Center and its sister institution, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, have a long and storied history as a model of highly skilled, compassionate care for people in underserved communities. The medical center was founded in 1884 by Jewish philanthropists to help chronically ill people who were denied care by other hospitals. In addition to advances in medicine, Montefiore made community care a priority. Because our Bronx community is one of the most economically challenged urban counties in the US, Montefiore created the nation’s first hospital-based Department of Social Medicine in 1950 to better serve its patient population.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the only medical institution to which Einstein officially agreed to lend his name, opened its doors in 1955. In keeping with the humanistic values of its namesake – who, as a Jew, had experienced discrimination in Europe before taking refuge in the US – the new medical school welcomed Jews, African Americans, and women in a time when most other centers of medical education imposed strict “quotas.”
In 1963, Montefiore became the teaching hospital for Einstein – a pairing that offered a top-flight training ground for some of the nation’s best and brightest aspiring physicians and research scientists. Today, Montefiore Einstein attracts trainees from all over the world who dream of a career in medicine with a strong commitment to social justice.
Integral to Montefiore’s history is the history of our department. Some of our past chairs include Leopold G. Koss, a founder of cytology; David Marine, nominated three times for a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on thyroid physiology and pathology and the prevention of simple goiter by iodide; and Harry M. Zimmerman, considered the godfather of neuropathology. In light of this proud lineage, pathologists at Montefiore are integral members of the healthcare team – and, as such, our residency program prepares trainees to practice in healthcare teams immediately upon completing their training.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the unique expertise of laboratory professionals and the vital role we play in clinical care visible for all the world to see and acknowledge. My colleagues and I are honored to collaborate with Michael Schubert and his team on our upcoming takeover issue and, in sharing some of our stories with you, we hope you will find inspiration for both thought and action in these profoundly interesting times.