The History of Mount Sinai

On January 15, 1852, nine men representing a variety of Jewish charities agreed on a vision for free medical care for indigent Jews in New York City. In 1855, that vision came to fruition with the establishment of the 45-bed Jews' Hospital in New York in what was then a rural neighborhood on West 28th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Although the hospital was a sectarian institution, the Jews' Hospital accepted emergency patients of any religious affiliation. In its first years of operation, the majority of patients were foreign born. As the Jews' Hospital was a charitable enterprise, its directors relied on the gifts of friends and members, as well as payments from the government, to provide enough to subsidize care.

During the Civil War, the Hospital expanded to accommodate Union soldiers. After this, to reflect its broadened mission and to maintain its eligibility for state and city support, the Jews' Hospital formally abandoned its sectarian charter in 1866 and was renamed The Mount Sinai Hospital. In 1872, it moved to a new 120-bed facility on Lexington Avenue, between 66th and 67th Streets, nearly tripling its original capacity.

Move to Upper East Side Leads to Expanded Services

With the move to Lexington Avenue, patient care grew to encompass outpatient services as well as new specialties such as pediatrics, eye and ear, neurology, genitourinary, and dermatology. A tiny laboratory, large enough for only two people, was set up in a coat closet, and research took on increased importance.

In 1881, a training school for nurses was established, introducing professional nursing care to a facility previously served by untrained male and female attendants. The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing closed in 1971 after graduating 4,700 nurses.

As advances in research, diagnosis, and patient care occurred, more people sought treatment at hospitals, and Mount Sinai’s leaders realized it was time, once again, to move and expand.

New Facilities on Fifth Avenue Offer Further Growth

In 1904, the new 456-bed, 10-pavilion Mount Sinai Hospital was dedicated on Fifth Avenue at 100th Street. The President of the Hospital, Isaac Wallach, described Mount Sinai as “this House of noble deeds” with a three-fold mission of “Benevolence, Science, Education.” Over the years the Hospital has expanded rapidly both physically and in terms of service. Numerous departments and laboratories have arisen, among them pathology, otology — the treatment of ear diseases — rehabilitation medicine, microbiology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, and social work services. The latter is supported by the Auxiliary Board, which was formed in 1916 to provide financial support and labor resources to social service-related activities at the Hospital. The Auxiliary today works diligently to support vital Hospital and community outreach projects.

Mount Sinai Active in Both World Wars

The Mount Sinai Hospital sent medical units to both World Wars. Of the 24 physicians and 65 nurses serving in World War I with Base Hospital No. 3 of the U.S. Army Medical Corps in France, the majority of doctors and nurses were from Mount Sinai. The group finished the conversion of a 15th century monastery in Vauclaire, Dordogne into a 500-bed hospital that at one point housed 2,800 patients.

During World War II, nearly 900 Mount Sinai physicians, nurses, staff members and trustees saw wartime service.  Mount Sinai's affiliated unit, the U.S. Army 3rd General Hospital, served in North Africa, Italy, and France. Nine people associated with Mount Sinai died while in service.

School of Medicine Opens in 1968

In the late 1950s, the Hospital began plans to establish its own medical school, an unusual move for a hospital. With its chartering in 1963, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, now called the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, became the first medical school to grow out of a non-university in more than 50 years. The fact that the Hospital was encouraged to found a school is a testament to its tradition of excellence in patient care as well as research.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine opened in 1968 in affiliation with The City University of New York. In building the medical school, trustees envisioned a new kind of medical institution — a university of health sciences. This new institution would encompass a medical school supported by a strong teaching hospital, with a graduate school of biologic sciences, a graduate school of physical sciences, and undergraduate programs for allied health workers.

The first class in the newly formed Mount Sinai School of Medicine consisted of 36 students, four of whom were women. There were also 23 students in a third year class and 19 students in the Graduate School of Biological Sciences.  In 2007, the School began accepting 140 students in each first year class and there are now more than 300 graduate students at any point in time.

The Twenty-First Century

The opening years of the 21st century found The Mount Sinai Medical Center struggling financially, but by the end of the Hospital’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2002/2003, steps had already been taken to chart a new course. In January 2003, Kenneth L. Davis, MD, Mount Sinai Class of 1973, was named Dean of the School of Medicine. On March 24th he was also named President and CEO of The Mount Sinai Medical Center. Four years later the two offices were split and Dennis S. Charney, MD became Dean. In 2010 the School reached a milestone when the Middle States Commission granted Mount Sinai initial accreditation to be a free-standing entity that would grant its own degrees – something the founders of the School had envisioned 50 years previously. In 2012 the name of the School was changed to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, to honor the lifetime generosity of Trustee Carl Icahn to Mount Sinai. That same year Mount Sinai celebrated the opening of a new clinical and research facility, the Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine.

Mount Sinai continued its tradition of progressive evolution in 2013 by merging with the Continuum Health Partners, a group of respected hospitals and ambulatory practices spread across New York City. This created the Mount Sinai Health System, an integrated health system of seven member hospital campuses affiliated with a single medical school, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

More than 160 years after its founding, Mount Sinai continues to grow and lead, fulfilling its commitment to high-quality patient care and teaching conducted in an atmosphere of social concern and scholarly inquiry into the nature, causation, prevention and therapy of human disease.