The story of Michael Reese Research and Education Foundation begins with Michael Reese Hospital.
In the late nineteenth century, a wealthy businessman named Michael Reese left his fortune to his family in Chicago. They joined their inheritances together and gave the money to the United Hebrew Relief Association to build a hospital on the near South Side.
In 1881, the new facility opened at 29th and Groveland Park Avenues with two conditions. First, it was to be called Michael Reese Hospital. Second, it was to treat all patients regardless of religion, ethnicity or class.
The spirit of care at the hospital for the next 127 years is best expressed in words spoken by Herman F. Hahn, president of the hospital building committee in 1905. He described the charitable institution as a place where…
“all faiths stand on the same footing,
where the equal rights of all consciences are respected, and
where the essential oneness and intrinsic dignity of all human beings
Under this guiding principle, the hospital rose to prominence in Chicago as one of its top medical care centers. At its height, it was the largest hospital in the city with 2400 beds. Wealthier patients came for its excellence. Poor patients came with certainty of receiving quality care. Even as it struggled to keep its doors open in the early 21st century, it served as a safety-net hospital and provided high-quality care to every patient, unconditionally.
At the same time, the hospital achieved prominence far beyond Chicago. It attracted leading medical practitioners and researchers from around the world. It became internationally known for pioneering research and training. Many scientific findings and treatment breakthroughs originated at Reese and spread to hospitals world-wide.
Always growing, always pushing the forefront of medicine while maintaining excellent standards in care, the institution struggled with the changing economic realities of medicine in the late 1980’s. To adapt, the board decided to sell the hospital to a for-profit corporation while continuing nonprofit activities through the auspices of an internally organized operating foundation.