A Legacy in Medical Education

Mitchell Balk, President

Good evening everyone, and thanks for being here.

In a few minutes you are going to hear a lot about the future of medical education in Cleveland. I’d like to take the next few moments to put the Foundation’s participation in the new medical school campus into some historical perspective.

Our predecessor institution, The Mt. Sinai Medical Center, was founded in no small part because Jewish doctors-to-be often could not train at other hospitals, and could not get on the staffs of hospitals once their training had concluded.

We haven’t devoted much time at these annual meetings to recalling the hospital’s unique role and myriad accomplishments. We’re going to correct that this evening, because over its near 100-year history, Mt. Sinai became a nationally-known community teaching and research medical center. And, lest anyone forget, using the amount of adult Medicaid business as a measure, beginning in the mid-sixties when Medicare and Medicaid came into being, Mt. Sinai was the largest private provider of care to the poor in the entire State of Ohio.

The Mt. Sinai Foundation exists to continue the mission of superior patient care, academic medicine… and bioscience… that were the hallmarks of Mt. Sinai, with one caveat: We are no longer about health care, but instead, health before care. We are ounce of prevention people.

Some months ago, we announced the largest grant in our 18-year history as a health grantmaker: $10 million to Case Western Reserve University, to build a new medical education building.

This grant represents the continuation of Mt. Sinai’s long medical education partnership with Case Western Reserve. Mt. Sinai became a clinical affiliate of the Case School of Medicine in 1947, and for more than half a century it was a popular place for medical students to train.

CaseMed graduate Dr. Julie Gerberding, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recalls assisting in the delivery of her first baby at Mt. Sinai as a medical student during an OB/GYN rotation.

When I ran into her some years ago in Washington, she told me she could never forget her experiences at Mt. Sinai. And of course, the hospital had its own stand-alone graduate and post-graduate training programs, residencies and fellowships, and its own School of Nursing, which became the foundation for the Kent State University College of Nursing, now the third largest school in the country.

Mt. Sinai was a great place to train because it was a great hospital, with a superior medical staff and a number of notable events that were to have impact on the worldwide practice of medicine. Here are but a few:

And the first successful in-vitro fertilization, or test-tube baby, to be born in Ohio, was to occur at Mt. Sinai.

Much has been said about Cleveland’s prominence as a medical leader and innovator. For decades Mt. Sinai was part of that worldwide reputation. But it is The Case School of Medicine that has been the key contributor to our national and international fame. The school is among the best in the country. Its average MCAT scores are nine-tenths of a point from #1 Harvard.

I can think of no more meaningful a grant to perpetuate the interests of Mt. Sinai donors than this project, now a partnership with Cleveland Clinic, to train future generations of physicians and other health care professionals.

The Case medical school will finally have a facility that matches the quality of its educational programs, and its stellar reputation.

Let me close by saying that Foundations our size rarely, if ever, make $10 million grants. So why did the Board say “yes?” First of all, I think you all know that the Jewish people have had a love affair with education.

But we are also in strategic planning mode here at the Foundation… and every time we step back from our grantmaking routine and perform a kind of self-assessment to plan a more impactful future, I like to frame the discussion with these three questions:

What Should We Be?
What does Cleveland Need Us to Be?
What Can We Be?

And it seems to me that the answer to the question of why we made this extraordinary commitment can be found in the answers to these three questions.

First, what should we be? We are an organization that owes a lot to the past. The grant to Case perpetuates the educational mission of Mt. Sinai Hospital and the donative intent of generations of Mt. Sinai donors.

Second, What Does Cleveland Need Us to Be? Barbara Snyder made it abundantly clear that the only way this new building was going to get built was with the help of philanthropy. We knew the project had enormous potential for both training tomorrow’s doctors, and enhancing Cleveland’s reputation as a medical leader, a key strength and building block for our region.

And finally, What can we be? What particular strengths can we bring to this project, and where can we deliver something valued-added. As one of the few foundations in town with an interest in Academic Medicine and Bioscience, we hoped that stepping up to the plate early would create excitement and leverage support for the medical school project from both near and far.

As we move into the future may we always be guided by the three questions I have posed to you tonight, and may we always be as impactful as our $10 million grant to Case has turned out to be.