Bellevue by David Oshinsky Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Bellevue; Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky; Doubleday, 2016. 387 pages; $30.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult.

As the subtitle promises, this history of New York City’s oldest public hospital is far from dry. Following Bellevue from its beginnings as an almshouse established in the early 1700s to the present day means following both the diverse events that have sent patients through its doors over the years (severe weather, epidemics, immigration, alcohol poisoning during Prohibition) as well as the history of medical and psychiatric treatments, ambulances, hospitals, and the emergence of qualified nurses and physicians. Just when the information begins to seem a little too dense and detailed, Oshinsky inserts an anecdote or drops the name of someone famous who was treated there. Bellevue’s major dilemma (remaining solvent while never turning a patient away) is glossed over in the final few paragraphs of the epilogue: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s brave declaration – “…the city will not abandon it” -projects more hope than the hospital’s current funding and projected budget seem to warrant. Just knowing more about this amazing institution, however, has turned me into a cheerleader.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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