Each year that I write this introduction about the new inductees into the Health Care Hall of Fame, I find it difficult to find the right words to describe each of the honorees. Their careers are so exceptional and they have done such incredible things that mere words about their exploits and achievements seem almost trivial.
For instance, think about the career of Ida Maud Cannon and her trailblazing accomplishments. She made the profession of social work a respected and necessary part of modern, quality healthcare. That was no easy task for anyone, especially a woman, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When she died at 83 in 1960, she had gained the admiration and respect of the leadership in all facets of the healthcare delivery system.
Then there's Samuel J. Tibbitts, former chairman of Burbank, Calif.-based UniHealth America and chairman emeritus of Cypress, Calif.-based PacifiCare Health Systems. His vision and courage really brought into play the first model for hospital-physician integration in the healthcare industry. His peers recognized his genius, and during his career, he served as chairman of the American Hospital Association and president of both the California Hospital Association and the Hospital Council of Southern California.
George W. Crile Sr., M.D., was one of the founders of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. With Crile's support and urging, the foundation was launched in 1921 and is now the second-largest medical group practice in the world with 600,000 outpatient visits annually. But that isn't all. He was also a prodigious surgeon and performed more than 100,000 operations during his career. He pioneered the treatment of surgical shock; founded the world's first school of anesthesiology; was a founding member of the American College of Surgeons; and invented the forerunner of the pressure suit used by World War II pilots to avoid blacking out in flight.
H. Robert Cathcart is a gentleman, scholar, pioneer and keeper of the flame of patient-centered care. His career spanned 43 years, and he was president of the storied Pennsylvania Hospital from 1970 to 1990. In his own words, "The patient should always come first. That's the reason all of us are here: to give patients the support and care they need to get well." He served as board chairman of the American Hospital Association in 1976 and speaker of the House of Delegates in 1977. He received the AHA's distinguished service award in 1983.
Finally, there's C. Everett Koop, M.D. He will go down in history as the nation's most visible and vocal U.S. surgeon general. After his confirmation in 1981, he launched an aggressive and unprecedented anti-smoking campaign. He was a strong advocate of safe sex and startled many with his frank talk about the transmittal of AIDS. Throughout his career, he was what could be best described as a "physician's physician." A man of integrity, courage and love of people.
To all the 1997 recipients, I say, "Thank you for being here."