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Former Cook County public health official Rothstein dies at 90

By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: August 5, 2013 - 1:15 pm ET

Ruth Rothstein, the former chief of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services who was credited for turning around what was once an outdated public health system in Chicago into one of the country's leading models and was considered a major figure among public hospital leaders, has died at the age of 90.

Rothstein began her career in healthcare when she took a job as a laboratory technician at Jackson Park Hospital in Chicago in 1952. After taking a position as an assistant to the general director of operations at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago in 1966, she worked her way up through ranks to eventually become president and CEO of the hospital in 1977, a position she held until 1991 when she was named hospital director for Cook County Hospital.

Known as a no-nonsense administrator who was a tireless advocate for the county's low-income and uninsured patients, Rothstein took charge of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services, now known as Cook County Health and Hospitals System, at a time when the area's health system was viewed by many as a place that offered little in the way of quality care.

By the time Rothstein retired in 2004, she had overseen the construction of John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, as well as the creation of the Ruth Rothstein CORE Center, a clinic that works toward prevention, care and research involving HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Rothstein continued her work up until her death, most recently presiding as chairwoman of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Ill.

In a written statement, Rosalind Franklin University President and CEO Dr. K. Michael Welch praised Rothstein as being an integral part of the Rosalind Franklin University community, and for providing guidance at critical junctures in the school's history and helping to shape its vision for the future.

“Through her dedicated leadership, the university refined its interprofessional mission, expanded its programs to meet future healthcare needs, and opened the College of Pharmacy,” Welch said. “There isn't a part of our university that was not impacted by Mrs. Rothstein's leadership as chair of our board of trustees and her absence will be markedly felt.”

In 2004, Rothstein was inducted into Modern Healthcare's Health Care Hall of Fame. Rothstein was also named to Modern Healthcare's 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2002.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson


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