Michael Reese Hospital
In the late 19th century, Michael Reese, a wealthy businessman left his fortune to his family living in Chicago. The inheritance was given to the United Hebrew Association which built a hospital on the near southside. In 1881, the new facility opened at 29 Groveland Park Avenue with two preconditions: it was to be called Michael Reese Hospital and it was to treat all patients regardless of religion, ethnicity or class.
The spirit of care at Michael Reese Hospital for the next 127 years was 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 is acknowledged.”
Under this guiding principle, the hospital rose to prominence in Chicago as one of the top medical centers. At its height, it was the largest hospital in the city with 2400 beds. Even as the hospital struggled to keep its doors open in the early 21st century, it served unconditionally as a safety net hospital and provided quality care for all patients.
The hospital achieved prominence far beyond Chicago. It attracted leading medical practitioners and scientists from around the world, becoming internationally known for pioneering research and housestaff and fellowship training. Many scientific findings and therapeutic breakthroughs originated from Michael Reese and spread to hospitals worldwide.
The institution struggled with the changing realities of medicine, but kept growing, and pushing the forefront of medicine while maintaining excellent standards and care. In the late 1980’s, the Hospital Board decided to sell the hospital while continuing safety net activities through the auspices of an internally operating foundation. The Michael Reese Research and Education Foundation began in 1991. The Foundation administered funding for research projects, supplemented educational expenses for housestaff, and founded and managed funds for community programs, including HIV care and Women’s Health. The annual Michael Reese Crystal Ball, a major social event in Chicago, attracted generous donors who supported the Foundation’s work.