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The Brooklyn Hospital Center marks 170th anniversary honoring medical philanthropy

28th annual Founders Ball Raises $1.34M to Provide Community Health Care

September 14, 2016 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The 2016 Walter E. Reed Medal recipients, from left: Dr. Abraham Jelin, Dr. Angela Kerr and Karen B. Peetz, president of BNY Mellon. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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Dr. Abraham Jelin, director of pediatric gastroenterology at The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC), opened his remarks with a warning: “Changes in health care delivery systems threaten community hospitals such as ours,” he said to the gathering that filled Barclays Center for the 28th annual Brooklyn Hospital Center Founders Ball on Tuesday.

Jelin, who had just received the foundation’s Walter E. Reed Medal in recognition of his efforts in promoting community-based health care, referred to the growing trend of consolidation among hospitals and medical providers, which, because it also centralizes medical decision-making, has the potential to render effective community-based health care a relic of the past like oxygen tents or house calls.

Working against that trend, TBHC, along with its 501 (c) (3) Brooklyn Hospital Center Foundation, relies on local philanthropy to maintain and expand its services to communities that are frequently hard hit by hospital mergers and the subsequent closure of less profitable facilities that serve a higher proportion of the medically indigent than clinics in affluent neighborhoods.  

Professor of Healthcare Policy at Boston University Alan Sager has characterized the geographic health care vacuums created by hospital closures as “hospital deserts.” In a 2013 Fierce Healthcare article, Sager pointed out that of some 774 hospitals open in 52 major U.S. cities in 1960, 484 — more than two-thirds — had closed by 2010. “As a nation,” Sager wrote, “the U.S. has 30 percent fewer hospital beds per 1,000 people than we did in 1940.”

“We must sustain our sense of urgency,” said Bank of New York executive and foundation trustee Lenue H. Singletary. “This hospital is a Brooklyn treasure!”

“The Brooklyn Hospital Center is one of our most important resources,” said nurse Margaret Rafferty, professor of nursing at New York City College of Technology. Rafferty described TBHC’s utility as a teaching hospital for both nurses and physicians in training.

TBHC has relied on philanthropic outreach (which the organization’s website claims to have pioneered) to sustain it during its 170-year history since opening as Brooklyn’s first voluntary hospital in 1845.

This year’s Founders Ball opened with a VIP cocktail reception in the center’s Calvin Klein Club. Most of those attending sported the silver or brass medallions of past medal winners. Celebrity guests Ralph Macchio, Vincent Piazza and composer-playwright David Henry Hwang mingled with the guests and posed for pictures.

While the mission — saving lives through improved access to health care — couldn’t have been more serious, this evening’s approach left room for fun. A high-speed video camera permitted guests to mug for the lens in front of a pale backdrop and then watch themselves contort ridiculously in slow motion playback on a wide-screen monitor.  

Good spirits, along with good Indian-style food, proved effective in loosening purse strings: “Through the generosity of hospital leadership, community members and staff, the Founders Ball raised $1,340,000!” foundation Senior Manager Missy Sirola reported afterward.

“Our patients are treated comprehensively, regardless of their ability to pay,” Dr. Shalom Buchbinder, chairman of TBHC Department of Radiology, explained.

In addition to Jelin, this year’s honorees included Dr. Angela Kerr, TBHC chief of gynecology; and Karen B. Peetz, president of BNY Mellon.

“I never dreamed of such a marvelous reality,” Dr. Kerr said after receiving her medal. “Brooklyn Hospital Center has been my home for over 28 years.” 

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