Brooklyn Public Library

Mobile AppDownload our Mobile App

eNewsletterSubscribe to BPL eNews


LICH: following the paper trail

May 10, 2013 2:59 PM | 0 comments


The Long Island College Hospital is safe, for now.  Last week SUNY Downstate withdrew its plan to close  the historic beloved cash-strapped hospital. LICH will still need to find a suitable partner, but for now because of the alliance between the community and staff, LICH can continue serving the Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods as it has since 1858. 

Emerging from the Brooklyn German General Dispensary, LICH’s founders were the first to bring the concept of a teaching hospital to the U.S., training hundreds of distinguished physicians and nurses, who through numerous innovations would change the way that medicine is practiced and taught in Brooklyn and the rest of the world.

The hospital boasts an impressive list of firsts, including the borough's first use of anaesthesia, its first use of stethoscopes, as well as its first ambulance corps begun in 1879.


My first encounter with LICH came through my children's school, P.S. 146/M.S. 448.  When they started in kindergarten I was surprised to learn that there was a SUNY Downstate/LICH Clinic on the school's premises, as well as in five other Brooklyn public schools. Throughout the years I witnessed how invaluable LICH's presence was to the school community as Abby Wolfson the Pediatric Nurse Practioner took care of everything from asthma attacks, allergies, eye infections, prescriptions, vaccinations and much, much more. 


This venerable institution has of course left an impressive paper trail, some of which has found its way into our collection.

Medical Education in Brooklyn: The First Hundred Years            Ref 610.7 D   
Written in 1960 Medical Education in Brooklyn: The First Hundred Years begins with the opening of the hospital’s college division. It takes us from the first class of 58 students, taught by notable faculty members including Alexander Skene, up to 1960, reviewing the highlights of their teaching methods.


Brooklyn First: A Chronicle of the Long Island College Hospital, 1858-1990      Ref 362.1109 E
Published in 1993, Brooklyn First: A History of The Long Island College Hospital  by Dr. N. Edson is an insider's view of Long Island College Hospital and the practice of medicine in the borough of Brooklyn, deftly weaving the history of LICH with that of Kings County.


Circular and Catalogue for Session for 1866                     Ref 362 B87 Lc
The early education of medical students in the U.S. was far from standardized. For much of the early 19th century all a young man had to do was find a physician to shadow, attend a few courses, pay a sum or money, and VOILA! a doctor.   LICH was in the forefront of standardizing medical education and introduced the concept of combining clinical and classroom teaching.  This small pamphlet describes the importance of clinical instruction:

"Another  feature which this institution may fairly claim to have inaugurated in this country is the union of a hospital and a medical school; the courses of instruction being given within the hospital buildings.  The great advantages of this union, so far as clinical teaching is concerned are obvious.   It is sufficient to say that they have been found to be even greater than had been anticipated.  The students being able to pass from the lecture room into the hospital wards, the loss of time in going from one part of the city to another is saved.  They are at hand to witness cases of accident or severe disease the moment patients are received.  Cases of disease or surgery, can be watched from day to day without any inconvenience, and subjects treated of in the didactic lectures, can often be at once illustrated by cases in the hospital." 

We also learn of the costs associated with obtaining a medical degree from LICH:

The Fees for a full course of lectures in the Long Island College Hospital  $100.00
The Matriculation Fee  $5.00                                   
 The Fee of the Demonstrator of Anatomy  $5.00
The Graduation Fee  $25.00

Gynecological Care of Women in Brooklyn, 1863-1900: The Work of Alexander J.C. Skene, M.D. Ll.D.
Ref B Skene P
This dissertation by Kathleen E. Powderly examines the life of Dr. Alexander J.C. Skene, one of LICH’s most highly regarded physicians. She examines Skene’s numerous writings and clinical records to shed light on this doctor's contribution to the field of women’s health. 

The Cobble Hill Capers

Even the most ardent and hard-working of staff need to let loose sometimes, especially when the focus is on raising money. The dedicated staff accomplished this by staging professionally directed annual revues. As anyone can see from the 1967 and 1968 edition of Cobble Hill Capers, the staff of LICH were a talented bunch.



 As long as LICH has been in existence it has been covered by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.  There are literally hundreds of articles chronicling the growth of the hospital from 1858 to 1955.  In 1949 the Eagle published an extensive photo essay on the 90th anniversary of the hospital, giving readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the institution.  Most of the photographs that we have of LICH are from that story. The photographers and reporters had unprecendented access, documenting hospital personnel as they took care of sick patients and conducted medical research.   


Jean McCue, left, head nurse of the male medical ward, and Student Nurse Marie E. Kelly, look through the visible port which is one of hte features of the latest type of nurse's station installed at the Long Island College Hospital.

 Two nurses caring for a premature infant in an Isolette Incubator. 


Surgical Supplies are picked up from the dressing table by Mrs. Kennedy and Miss Cosgrove.                    


Dr. Katherine Schaeffer, biologist, making a microscopic examination of amoebae, organisms which cause troublesome human infections.


Dr. Elmer H. Loughlin, chief of the Long Island College Hospital Tropical Disease Clinic, uses a map of the world to show where tropical diseases occur--which is practically everywhere, even as far north as the Arctic Circle.

For over 150 years LICH has produced, employed, and sent out into the world countless medical professionals; from a doctor in 1897, to a nurse in 1970, or pediatric nurses currently working at local Brooklyn schools.



Abigail Wolfson, CPNP School Based Health Program