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National Jewish Health is a Denver, Colorado academic hospital/clinic doing research and treatment in respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders. It is an internationally respected medical center that draws people from many countries to receive care. Founded in 1899 to treat tuberculosis,[1] it is non-sectarian but had funding from B'nai B'rith until the 1950s.[2]

National Jewish Health
National Jewish Health, circa 1920.
Location1400 Jackson Street, Denver, Colorado, United States
Coordinates39°44′21″N 104°56′32″W / 39.73914°N 104.9421°W / 39.73914; -104.9421
Care systemPrivate, non-profit
Affiliated universityUniversity of Colorado Denver
Emergency departmentN/A
Specialityrespiratory care
ListsHospitals in Colorado

The hospital, originally named as the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives has been renamed many times, including as National Jewish Hospital (1925–1964), National Jewish Hospital and Research Center (1965–1977), National Jewish Hospital and Research Center/National Asthma Center (following a 1978 merger with the National Asthma Center), National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (1986–1996). and National Jewish Medical and Research Center (1997–2008). In July 2008, it was renamed National Jewish Health.[1]

Tuberculosis brings people to Colorado

By the late 19th century, Colorado and the American Southwest had become famous for the health benefits of a dry, sunny climate. At that time, the only known treatment for tuberculosis was clean air and sunshine and hundreds of people with tuberculosis descended upon Denver in hopes of finding a miracle cure for what was then the nation's leading cause of death.[3] Consequently, many people with tuberculosis spent their last dollars coming to Colorado. By the 1890s, it was estimated that one out of every three residents of the state was there for respiratory reasons. However, no facilities existed to provide treatment or shelter to these victims. In Denver, victims of tuberculosis were literally dying in the streets as boarding houses often banned "lungers," as they were called.[4]

Planning and building, 1893

It was obvious that the Denver community at large was not sympathetic to the plight of tuberculosis sufferers, and many, including prominent Denver resident Frances Wisebart Jacobs stated that "we can't blacken the name of the city" by making it a refuge for those with tuberculosis.[5]

Frances Wisebart Jacobs, known as "Mother of Charities", recognized the need for a tuberculosis hospital.[6] After joining forces with a young rabbi, William Sterne Friedman, the two raised enough money to buy some land and erect a building.

On October 9, 1892, the hospital's cornerstone was laid and drew huge crowds. "The exercises yesterday were attended by several thousand people of all denominations, and the cable and electric car lines were taxed to full capacity, while the route to the site was lined with carriages."[7]

The original hospital was completed (but not yet opened) in 1893 and was to be named the "Francis Wisebart Jacobs Hospital" after its founder, but she died of pneumonia before the hospital opened.[8]

Due to the combination of the "Silver Crisis of 1893" and a national depression, the hospital did not open and sat vacant for six years until Rabbi Friedman approached B'nai B'rith, a national Jewish organization, and persuaded them to raise the required operating funds on an annual basis.

Early operation 1899-1950s

When the hospital opened on December 10, 1899, it had a new name; National Jewish Hospital for Treatment of Consumptives (consumption is an old name for tuberculosis that describes how the contagious illness wastes away or consumes its victims). B'nai B'rith continued to support the hospital until the early 1950s.[9]

Despite its name, National Jewish treats all comers and emphasizes giving care to those who can't pay. At the ground-breaking on October 9, 1892, it was noted that "…[Pain] knows no creed, so is this building the prototype of the grand idea of Judaism, which casts aside no stranger no matter of what race or blood. We consecrate this structure to humanity, to our suffering fellowman, regardless of creed."[8] National Jewish adopted the motto: "None may enter who can pay – none can pay who enter"[10] The hospital opened with a capacity of 60 patients with the goal of treating 150 patients a year.

In the beginning, a six-month limit on patient stays was imposed and only patients in the early stages of tuberculosis were to be accepted. In reality, however, many chronic sufferers were admitted and, after a few months, they lifted the six-month limit.[11]

Treatment of tuberculosis at the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives was in line with other turn-of-the-20th-century sanatoria: plenty of fresh air, plenty of food, moderate exercise, and close scrutiny of every aspect of patients' lives.[12] Good food was very apropos: even today poor nutrition is a risk factor for tuberculosis.[13]

Patients could expect to sleep outside, or with their heads outside, every night, and were all but gorged with food. In 1911, the annual report records that $3,631 was spent on eggs (roughly $94,888.89 in 2016) for just 120 patients.[14]

Asthma and allergies, 1950s- present time

In the mid-1950s National Jewish Hospital maintained its tuberculosis work and built on its pulmonary focus to branch out into asthma and related respiratory ailments. About mid-century, the hospital had the nation's only large inpatient program for adults with asthma; a pediatric program was added in the 1960s.[15]

In 1978, the hospital, then called the National Jewish Hospital and Research Center, merged with the National Asthma Center (NAC). The NAC had originally been founded in 1907 as a home for Jewish children of tuberculosis patients, changed its name in 1928 to the National Home for Jewish Children in Denver, in 1953 to the Jewish National Home for Asthmatic Children at Denver and in 1957 to the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital (CARIH). In 1973, the name National Asthma Center was adopted. At the time of the merger, it was a national residential treatment facility for children with intractable asthma and a research hospital.[16]

Present mission

National Jewish Health has no formal ties to any religious or quasi-religious institution and gets no funding from B'nai B'rith. Until 1968, the institution only accepted patients without health insurance; all care was free.[17] Care is still free or heavily subsidized.

U.S. News & World Report has ranked National Jewish Health as #1 or #2 every year that the pulmonology category has been included in the rankings (since 1997). Of those years, National Jewish Health has been ranked in the #1 spot for 17 of those years as the leading U.S. respiratory hospital.[18]

Current departments include:

The hospital operates Morgridge Academy on its main campus for kindergarten through eighth-grade children who are challenged with chronic illness.[19] The smoking cessation program has helped millions of people via internet and phone to quit tobacco.[20]

These are among National Jewish's collaborations with health care institutions:

The hospital also has a Center for Post-COVID Care and Recovery. This provides multidisciplinary support for patients suffering from long-term symptoms of COVID-19.[21]



  • Ranked as one of the top two hospitals in pulmonology every year since U.S. News & World Report included this category in its annual “Best Hospitals” survey
  • Ranked in the top 1 percent of hospitals in the nation by HCAHPS
  • Among the top 8 percent of organizations funded for research by the NIH, providing patients access to the latest clinical trials

See also


  1. ^ a b National Jewish Hospital Records, "University of Denver"
  2. ^ "History", "B'nai B'rith Denver"
  3. ^ "How Tuberculosis Fueled Colorado's Growth", "Colorado Public Radio"
  4. ^ "Delivering Aid: Implementing Progressive Era Welfare in the American West", "Thomas A. Krainz"
  5. ^ "Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society – B'nai B'rith Building", ""
  6. ^ "Colorado's Mother of Charities", "Fairmount Cemetery"
  7. ^ "The Rocky Mountain News", October 10, 1892
  8. ^ a b "The Birth of a Hospital", by Milton Louis Anfenger, 1942, Milton L. Anfenger publisher
  9. ^ "A Legacy of Service", "B'nai B'rith Denver"
  10. ^ "Colorado’s Healthcare Heritage: A Chronology of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries", "Thomas J. Sherlock", Volume 1 1800– 1899, page 374
  11. ^ "Jewish Denver 1859–1950", page 76, Jeanne E. Abrams, Ph.D., Arcadia publishing.  
  12. ^ "National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet – Tuberculosis", "U.S. Department of Health & Human Services"
  13. ^ Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains, 2003, Random House, New York, p. 234
  14. ^ "The Inflation Calculator".
  15. ^ "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology", "1989; 83:17–25"
  16. ^ "National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine",
  17. ^ "History of Colfax Avenue". Retrieved 2020-08-13.
  18. ^ "National Jewish Health-Denver", "U.S. News & World Report"
  19. ^ "National Jewish Health – Morgridge Academy". American Hospital Association.
  20. ^ "As vaping illnesses rise, so do pleas to quit-smoking help lines". Chicago Tribune.
  21. ^ "Center for Post-COVID Care and Recovery". National Jewish Health. Retrieved 13 March 2024.

External links