A reflective ceremony was held on November 7 at Metropolitan Hospital Center in New York City to honor the legacy of Mathew F. Olstein, M.D., a physician and World War I hero who transcended an anti-Semitic attack during his medical residency at Kings County Hospital in 1916 to then become an intern and senior physician at Metropolitan Hospital. College and hospital leadership led the dedication ceremony and unveiled a plaque honoring Dr. Olstein during the week of Veterans Day and one week after Dr. Olstein’s memorial anniversary, or what is known in Hebrew as Yahrzeit. Among the speakers were, from left: Colonel Carl A. Singer, retired national commander, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A.; Alina Moran, M.P.A., chief executive officer, NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan; William H. Frishman, M.D., the Barbara and William Rosenthal professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine and professor of pharmacology; Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and CEO; Nancy Schaff, president, Descendants & Friends of the 314th Infantry A.E.F., commissioner, Maryland World War I Centennial Commission; and Rabbi Moshe Krupka, executive vice president, Touro College and University System. View the Mathew Francis Olstein, M.D., Dedication Ceremony photo gallery here.
While Dr. Olstein was an intern at Kings County Hospital, he was bound and gagged by other interns, put on a train at Grand Central Terminal, and warned that if he ever returned to Kings County Hospital he would be thrown into the East River. After the attack, rooted in anti-Semitism, Dr. Olstein accepted an internship at Metropolitan Hospital and rose to become Senior House Physician from 1916 to 1917, when he was drafted into World War I. Dr. Olstein served as First Lieutenant in the Medical Section of the Officer’s Reserve Corps of the Army and was posted in the trenches of France with the 314th Infantry, 79th Division. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of September and October 1918, the largest U.S. military offensive since the Civil War, he was killed at the age of 24, six weeks before the end of World War I. His body was returned from France three years later and he is buried in the First Hebrew Cemetery of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.
Dr. Frishman, a veteran of the U.S. Army Medical Corps with active duty and reservist service during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras and a member of the American Legion and Jewish War Veterans organizations, recounted NYMC’s and Metropolitan’s efforts to support the U.S. during times of war, including assembling the U.S. Base Hospital 48 during World War I and rising to the occasion again in World War II. “After Pearl Harbor, the entire class signed up for reserve commissions in the Army and Navy with active duty to be served after graduation. No other school could match the patriotism of the school and its affiliated hospitals during the war,” said Dr. Frishman. “Metropolitan Hospital should stand proud with a long and distinguished record both in wartime and in peace. I salute Dr. Olstein who is being recognized today, and thank Metropolitan Hospital for their devoted service to our community and to our country.”
Dr. Halperin offered additional background. “New York Medical College and Metropolitan Hospital have stood as a bastion against bigotry in medical education for 141 years… In 1928, NYMC made history by being the first “historically majority” medical school to establish scholarships for black students. This College never had anti-Semitic and anti-Roman Catholic admissions quotas. In recent years, this College has had the highest percentage of underrepresented minority medical students of any “historically majority” medical school in the United States,” he said. “As the teaching hospital of NYMC, a rainbow of diversity of physicians has walked the system and I am proud of where I work, a place where we prevent disease and take care of the sick without asking if they have money, if they speak English, where they come from, or if they are U.S. citizens, because at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan and New York Medical College, a member of the Touro College and University System, we recognize that being a member of the human family means you are welcome at our front door.”
Plaques honoring Dr. Olstein are being installed at Metropolitan and on the NYMC campus.