Bellevue, located on First Avenue in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, is the oldest public hospital in the country. It was founded in 1736 as a quarantine hospital and built in what was then wilderness, almost two miles north of the settled region of Manhattan.
In 1819, New York University faculty began to conduct clinical instruction at Bellevue Hospital. In 1849, an amphitheater for clinical teaching and surgery opened. In 1861, the Bellevue Hospital Medical College, the first medical college in New York with connections to a hospital, was founded.
By 1873, the nation’s first nursing school based on Florence Nightingale’s principles opened at Bellevue, followed by the nation’s first children’s clinic in 1874 and the nation’s first emergency pavilion in 1876; a pavilion for the insane—an approach considered revolutionary at the time—was erected within hospital grounds in 1879. Bellevue initiated a residency training program in 1883 (; it is still the model for surgical training worldwide. The Carnegie Laboratory, the nation’s first pathology and bacteriology laboratory, was founded there a year later, followed by the nation’s first men’s nursing school in 1888.
Multiple firsts were performed at Bellevue in its early years. In 1799, it opened the first maternity ward in the United States. By 1808, the world’s first ligation of the femoral artery for an aneurysm was performed there, followed by the first ligation of the innominate artery ten years later.
Bellevue physicians promoted the “Bone Bill” in 1854, which legalized dissection of cadavers for anatomical studies; two years later they started to also popularize the use of the hypodermic syringe. In 1862, the Austin Flint murmur was named for Austin Flint, prominent Bellevue Hospital cardiologist.
By 1867, Bellevue physicians were instrumental in developing New York City’s sanitary code, the first in the world. One of the nation’s first outpatient departments connected to a hospital (the “Bureau of Medical and Surgical Relief for the Out of Door Poor”) was established at Bellevue that year. In 1868, Bellevue physician Stephen Smith became first commissioner of public health in New York City; he initiated a national campaign for health vaccinations. A year later, Bellevue established the second hospital-based, emergency ambulance service in the United States.
Bellevue Hospital Medical College
Extracted from the NYU Archives
The Bellevue Hospital Medical College opened in 1861 and in 1898 was merged with the University Medical College of New York University.
In the spring of 1861 the following physicians as the faculty: Stephen Smith, Frank H. Hamilton, James R. Wood, Alexander B. Mott, Lewis A. Sayre, Isaac E. Taylor, Fordyce Barker, George T. Elliot, Jr., Benjamin W. McCready, J.W. S. Gouley, Austin Flint, Austin Flint, Jr., and Robert O. Doremus.
The original building was on the grounds of Bellevue Hospital, but the school soon realized they needed a larger building, and in 1865-66, a larger building, also on the hospital grounds, was erected at 419-21 East 26th Street. In addition to serving as the home for the College, the facility was also used by the Bureau of Medical and Surgical Relief for the Out-door Poor.
During the Civil War, physicians from Bellevue Hospital Medical College , under the auspices of the United States Sanitary Commission, published several monographs for Army surgeons, such as Stephen Smith’s piece on “Amputations.” Faculty members also played significant roles on New York City ‘s Council of Hygiene and Public Health, whose landmark report on the sanitary condition of the city led to the establishment in 1866 of the New York City Department of Health.
The surgery department of the college was strong, and included prominent doctors such as Lewis Sayre, who was the first professor of orthopedic surgery in the country. In 1854 he performed the first successful resection of the hip joint in the United States . Frank Hamilton was an authority on fractures, and wrote the first complete and comprehensive treatise in English on the subject.
In the 1880’s Andrew Carnegie donated a large sum of money to the college, and the Carnegie Laboratory, the first in the country established for teaching and investigation in bacteriology and pathology, opened for the 1884-85 school year. (An event which is mentioned in Where the Light Enters)
In 1889, Bellevue physicians were the first to report that tuberculosis is a preventable disease; five years later was the successful operation of the abdomen for a pistol shot wound.
Bellevue Hospital Pioneered Care for Presidents and Paupers. National Public Radio.
A tour of Bellevue. Signature.