Noted journalist Julie Salamon was given unprecedented access to observe and record the intricate workings of Maimonides Medical Center in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, NY.
For a year, the author spent extended periods of time with administrators, physicians, nurses, social workers, maintenance staff, board members, patients, and their families. She sat in on numerous meetings, attended celebrations and dedications of new facilities, and had free reign to explore the hospital. She gained the trust of the president of the hospital and senior administrators, who seem to have revealed themselves with considerable candor.
The result is a compelling and insightful socio-cultural examination of what emerges as an impossible challenge — namely, providing the highest quality medical care in a vastly overcrowded multi-ethnic low-to-moderate income urban setting.
Ms. Salamon paints vivid portraits of her characters with, perhaps, unintended results. The book will be read by all the key players at Maimonides, a venerable institution best known for serving the large Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish population of Borough Park. It will be read by those interested in the current state of hospital care in the United States and how best to remedy our hospitals’ failure to provide adequate yet affordable medical care. Readers will be unable to ignore Salamon’s searing honesty about the state of Maimonides and the experience of being a patient, visitor, or provider at this hospital.
One comes to admire the many dedicated and skilled physicians and nurses at Maimonides, well known for exceptional cardiac care and now a first class cancer center. Yet, few readers will be leaving the other boroughs anytime soon to obtain treatment at Maimonides. Salamon, in this exemplary account, takes no prisoners and, despite a roster of world class physicians, surgeons, and superior leadership, the chaos and unrelenting stress of this overwhelmed mega hospital cannot be ignored. This important and timely work leaves one with a searching question: Will a culture of dignity, civility, cleanliness, and respect ever be possible in our large urban medical centers? Maimonides, as Salamon illuminates so well, aims each day to attain this ideal, but it may remain another Messianic yearning best understood by the faithful who dwell in the shadows of this unique hospital. Annotated book list, author’s note, index.
Steven A. Luel, Ph.D., is associate professor of education and psychology at Touro College, New York. He is a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice. He is co-editor (with Paul Marcus) of Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Holocaust: Selected Essays.