P&S Journal: Winter 1995, Vol.15, No.1
Columbia-Presbyterian and Its Community: A Changing Relationship
Despite improvements in the Medical Center's commitment to the community, difficulty persists in spreading the word through the community. Perception is slow to change. As director of public affairs, Ivy Fairchild is concerned that many people in the community think of the Medical Center simply as "The Hospital." Mitch Gipson, Audubon Park's executive director, speaks of "the brick wall on Broadway" that separates the Medical Center from the community.
This problem, like others that have been overcome, is being solved. Time, hard work, and the grapevine are at work, both in the community and farther afield. The superintendent of a local apartment building says, "It's as though the Medical Center holds an umbrella over the areas near it. If the umbrella is growing, that has to be good." Professor Emeritus Ross M. Grey, former director of comparative medicine at P&S, was responsible for establishing the first 4-H Club in New York City in the 1970s, and he and his assistant, Dr. Doris Mitchell, ran career workshops for neighborhood children. Seeing the changes evolving at the Medical Center, Dr. Grey says, "It's the decent thing to do, to open up the community you're in. It's practical and compassionate."
It is too soon to predict either the degree or the speed of change that will ensue from the initiatives within the Medical Center. On the other hand, there is little room for doubt that change is coming, and for the better. The intelligence, firmness of purpose, and energy being brought to bear on all matters pertaining to the relationship between the Medical Center and its community are bound to bear fruit. Mitch Gipson says, "There is real momentum now in the whole effort, a sense of belief and excitement. People want it to work and there is nothing but cooperation about how to make it work. When one begins to speak and act affirmatively about change, people do start to believe in it."
Jeanne Cole has lived in Washington Heights for more than 20 years. In writing this article, she has begun to re-think her recent longings to leave the neighborhood. "I think I'll stay now to see what happens," she says.