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History of the Department

Beth Israel Hospital opened as a Jewish community hospital on Townsend St in Roxbury in 1917, founded to provide a place for Jewish physicians and patients, both of whom were discriminated against at other hospitals. It remained a community hospital for the next 10 years. It was then decided to move Beth Israel to Brookline Avenue, already the site of the Longwood Medical Area next to Harvard Medical School.

Negotiations with David Edsall, the Dean of Harvard Medical School, led to the development of a formal affiliation agreement. Harvard stipulated that the Physician-in-Chief be a full-time faculty member and that this and other faculty appointments be made jointly by the hospital and the medical school. Dean Edsall opined that "The popularity of any hospital connected with the school depends very largely upon the interest and attention and stimulus that the students get from the personnel in that particular place. It is, therefore, largely up to the individual place as to how popular it is in recruiting students of the better quality."

The success of the relationship would hinge on the choice of the first head of the teaching service. The choice was fortunate.  Dr. Herrman L. Blumgart was only 32 years old and a brilliant young investigator in the Thorndike Laboratories at Boston City Hospital. With Dr Blumgart as Head of the Harvard Teaching Service, the hospital opened on Brookline Avenue in 1928.

Dr. Blumgart was appointed Chief of Medicine in 1946 and remained until 1962. Blumgart is considered the father of nuclear medicine, pioneering both the diagnostic use of radioactive isotopes in humans and the use of radioisotopes for therapy, in collaboration with George S. Kurland.

Blumgart was succeeded in 1963 by Howard H. Hiatt, who built a modern Department of Medicine during his tenure and brought Beth Israel up to par with the other Harvard hospitals. Dr. Hiatt went on to serve as the Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Over the next two decades the Beth Israel Department of Medicine was successively led by Franklin H. Epstein, Eugene Braunwald, and Robert M. Glickman. Braunwald served simultaneously as Chief of Medicine at Beth Israel and Brigham and Women's Hospital. In 1996 Beth Israel merged with the New England Deaconess Hospital.

The Deaconess Hospital was founded by Methodist women full-time church workers called deaconesses, who in 1896 erected a 15-bed hospital next to the home in which they lived, to provide care to the under served. The Department of Medicine at the Deaconess Hospital was led by James L. Tullis, MD from 1964-81. Tullis was a hematologist who played an important role in the development of modern methods for preservation of red blood cells with glycerol for blood banking. He was succeeded in 1981 by Robert C. Moellering, Jr, MD, who came from the Massachusetts General Hospital with a charge to build a Harvard-affiliated academic service at the Deaconess Hospital. Moellering consolidated the strengths of the Department and recruited many of our prominent current faculty. He remained Chairman until the merger in 1996, taking over as Chairman of the combined Department and presiding over its successful consolidation from 1998 until 2005.

Contact Information

Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus, Yamins 419
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617.667.2262
617.667.4921