THE CITY OF HOPE story began in 1913 with a group of local Jewish leaders in Los Angeles. Spurred by compassion to help those afflicted with tuberculosis, and recognizing the growing need to provide compassionate care and housing for people struggling with the disease, they established the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association (JCRA), and raised money to start a free, nonsectarian tuberculosis sanatorium.
After several fundraisers, the JCRA put a down payment on 10 acres of sun-soaked land in Duarte, where they would establish the Los Angeles Sanatorium a year later. The original sanatorium consisted of two canvas cottages that became the foundation for an institution, City of Hope, that would grow, change, and save tens of thousands of lives in the coming decades.
In the early 1900s, tuberculosis was a feared and deadly disease. Tenement housing in cities like New York was dismal and unsanitary. The conditions created an ideal breeding ground for diseases. Thousands of Jewish immigrants that had arrived from Europe lived in these tenements and worked in garment industry sweatshops. Many of them contracted tuberculosis and moved to Southern California seeking a cure through fresher air and cleaner living conditions.
In 1930, the sanatorium merged with the Jewish Ex-Patients Home to provide needed support and to help ease the transition for the sanatorium’s ex-patients. This was the beginning of City of Hope’s enduring legacy of caring for patients both during and after treatment.
Patients cured of tuberculosis and discharged from the sanatorium often found themselves alone and isolated in the community. Many of them needed continuing care, financial and emotional support, and job skills. “Treating tuberculosis remained the JCRA’s focus until 1946. Advances in medical science and a widening emphasis on other diseases led to the institution launching an ambitious plan to transform the sanatorium into a national medical center, supported by a research institute and postgraduate education. In 1949 the JCRA officially changed the name to City of Hope to reflect the change to a medical center that treated not only tuberculosis but other life threatening diseases,” according to the City of Hope Archives.
Thanks to the discovery of antibiotics, tuberculosis was on the decline in the U.S. However, City of Hope rose to the next medical challenge, tackling the catastrophic disease of cancer — and later on, diabetes and HIV/AIDS — while reaffirming its humanitarian vision that “health is a human right.”
In a rare document I received from the City of Hope Archives there was an article written by Paul Dembitzer on the 20th anniversary for City of Hope, the year was 1933. “Aside from the actual story of the sanatorium; but highly indicative of the character of brotherhood evidenced by the pioneering men and women,” is the preamble to the constitution, which goes on to read:
“We Jewish men and women do hereby bond ourselves together and organize for the purpose of raising funds and establishing suitable quarters for the aid, cure and comfort of our brothers and sisters afflicted with tuberculosis.”
That inextinguishable spirit of brotherhood was further exemplified when the organization declared itself to be nonsectarian. Any human being of any faith, Jew or non-Jew, receive the beneficent ministrations of the institution. The authors of this constitution were Messrs. J. Rosenkranz, Chaim Shapiro, and J. Allen Fraubel.
Samuel H. Golter, one of City of Hope’s early leaders, coined the phrase, “There is no profit in curing the body if, in the process, we destroy the soul.” Those words became City of Hope’s credo.
I recently had the great opportunity to speak with Stephen J. Forman, M.D., an international expert in leukemia, lymphoma and bone marrow transplantation. He is co-editor of Thomas’ Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, a definitive textbook for clinicians, scientists and health care professionals.
“From its Jewish roots, City of Hope was repairing the world, Tikkun Olum. Although its origins began as a Jewish hospital, people of all faiths and ethnicities have been coming here for over 100 years. When people are ill and in need, nothing else should matter other than helping them become well. We live very much by the City of Hope credo that ‘There is no profit in curing the body if, in the process, we destroy the soul.’ There is a strong sense to focus on the person and not treat them just as a disease. As emblazoned in our logo, we are all connected to each other and when you treat one person, you are treating their family and community. When one person is afflicted, then they all are affected. We are also mindful that when we are successful, it affects not just that person’s life, but their family and friends and community. When we are not successful, the loss is felt by many. It remains a privilege for me, after nearly 40 years of taking care of people with cancer, to do this with respectful, dignified and innovative care.
“City of Hope has been at the forefront of developing unique therapies for people with cancer, not just here, but around the world. Many of the therapies that we have developed have become standard and they have their origins in our scientific laboratories. People come here, not for yesterday’s treatment, but for the ones that will be effective tomorrow.”
Dr. Forman exudes the special blend of zealous determination and compassion that is typical of City of Hope physicians, nurses and scientists, illustrated by his own words: “We come to work every day thinking ‘cure and care.’ Once we have extended our hand and grasped yours, we do not let go.”
His current research projects are focused on immunotherapy — utilizing the body’s own immune system to attack cancer. Much of that work focuses on T cells and their cancer-fighting potential and genetic engineering.
City of Hope delivers scientific miracles that make lives whole again. They are a world leader in cancer research, treatment and prevention. Doctors partner with scientists to transform laboratory breakthroughs into treatments that outsmart cancer, as well as diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Compassion is at the heart of their approach.
City of Hope cares for the whole person, not just the body, so life after cancer can be rich and rewarding. At City of Hope, they combine science with soul to work miracles.
Thank you to the City of Hope Archives and Dr. Forman for sharing the history of City of Hope, as well as insight into the institution’s current and future endeavors. For more information please visit their website: www.cityofhope.org.
Tanya Schwied is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.