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Downtown Hospital Celebrates 150 Years of Quality Health Care

150 years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell – the first female physician in the United States – founded a hospital dedicated to medical excellence and accessible, quality care. Today, her commitment to quality lives on at New York Downtown Hospital, the modern-day successor of Dr. Blackwell's hospital.

Dr. Blackwell championed many “firsts” including:

Founding the country's first hospital for women
Starting one of the country's earliest medical schools for women - the first medical school to mandate four years of study
Creating one of the first nursing schools in America
Founding the National Health Society

This important moment in the history of women's achievements and modern medicine is being recognized by Downtown Hospital and the City Of New York.

On May 15, 2007, the corner of Gold and Beekman Streets will be officially co-named Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell Place in honor of Dr. Blackwell's contributions to the fields of medicine, education, and equal rights. A plaque in her honor will also be unveiled.

The ceremony will be held in Downtown Hospital's new Lehman Brothers Emergency Center at 2:00 p.m.; refreshments will follow in the Hospital Cafeteria.

Free tours of Downtown Hospital's newly expanded and renovated facilities are also being offered – all who attend will receive a complimentary gift (while supplies last).

In additionThe Elizabeth Blackwell Society has been created to ensure the continuation of Dr. Blackwell's mission through the programs and services of the hospital she helped to found 150 years ago, New York Downtown Hospital.

A brief biography on Dr. Blackwell follows. For more information on this important event and Lower Manhattan's only hospital, please call Vanessa Warner, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs and Marketing, at (212) 801-1705.

Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D.
The First Female Physician in the United States

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in 1821 in Bristol, England, and immigrated to America in 1832. She applied to sixteen medical schools before Geneva College (now Hobart and William Smith College) in upstate New York put her application to a student vote. As a joke, the students agreed to the admission of this "upstart" female. Graduating at the head of the class, she was granted a Medical Degree in 1849.

At the time, no male doctor would consider a female associate and no hospital would allow her to join its staff. In 1853, Dr. Blackwell opened a one-room dispensary on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; but she would not rest until her vision was achieved.

Despite tremendous professional, social, and financial obstacles, Dr. Blackwell succeeded in opening The New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children on May 12, 1857. The object was threefold: to provide charity care for the poor; to offer female medical students an opportunity to study and practice clinically; and to serve affluent women who wished to be treated only by female physicians.

The Hospital flourished and in 1979 merged with Beekman Downtown Hospital. Two years later, the Hospital relocated from Stuyvesant Square to its present location in Lower Manhattan and eventually evolved into New York Downtown Hospital.

A passionate reformer, Dr. Blackwell pioneered many “firsts” in the fields of medical care and social services. In addition to founding the country's first hospital for women, Dr. Blackwell also founded the country's first medical school for women, which became the first to mandate four years of study. Dr. Rebecca Cole, the first American black woman to receive a Medical Degree, was a graduate of the school. Dr. Blackwell also opened one of the first nursing schools in America and founded the National Health Society. Dr. Blackwell was a champion of preventive medicine and of the importance of hygiene in regard to infection control.

Today, New York Downtown Hospital proudly continues Dr. Blackwell's tradition of excellence in medical education and patient care, and of service to the underprivileged.

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