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The Insider's Connection

Public Health

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell: First Woman in American History to Receive a Medical Degree

How do local leaders arise from a community need? Which doctors have shaped the history of public health in New York City? How did Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell go from abject poverty and social mockery to founding her very own hospital? Elizabeth Blackwell was the third of nine children, born in Bristol, England to a Quaker…

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April 23, 2021

Elizabeth Milbank Anderson’s Infrastructural Changes in NYC

Whose influence shapes a city’s infrastructure? How have solutions emerged from tragedies throughout history? How did one wealthy woman touch the lives of thousands of poor children? Why does she receive so little credit? Is her story important to tell? In 1884, 34-year-old Elizabeth Milbank Anderson inherited a massive fortune. Her dad–Jeremiah Milbank–co-founded the Borden Condensed Milk Company and built his wealth further as a railroad investor. Elizabeth was well-educated, born and raised in New York City, and married to a successful portrait artist. Elizabeth lost her only son to diphtheria in 1886 and subsequently dedicated her life–and fortune–to ensure no one else would have to suffer this tragedy. But parents were losing their children every day in New York City. In the 1890s, the tuberculosis epidemic was rising. Children were dying of whooping cough, dysentery, measles, and diphtheria. Even…

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February 17, 2020

Government Responds to Yellow Fever Outbreak in New York City

How do city governments respond to crisis? What do people in power prioritize when the whole population is affected? How did rumors and panic lead to the first department of NYC’s Board of Health? It was 1793 when the Yellow Fever ravaged Philadelphia, killing 5,000 people quickly and without explanation. Fearful and uncertain of how the disease was caused and transmitted, New York City formed a Department of Health. Their first action was to quarantine all ships coming into the harbor from Philadelphia. There was little information available, but this department was trying to protect New Yorkers from whatever might be happening Philadelphia. Unfortunately, their efforts simply delayed the inevitable. Over the next 5 years, Yellow Fever claimed thousands of lives (at this point, the population of New York City was only 60,000 – imagine 8% of the city’s total…

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November 25, 2019