Elmhurst Hospital marks 190th anniversary from treating Civil War wounded to COVID patients at height of pandemic

Elmhurst Hospital holds a ceremony celebrating its 190th anniversary on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (Photos by Paul Frangipane)

Elmhurst Hospital celebrated a remarkable milestone on Sept. 22 when doctors, nurses, administrators and elected officials marked its 190th anniversary.

The city’s public hospital stood tall when it was tested during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March 2020, when it made national headlines after being inundated with coronavirus patients, including 13 who died in a 24-hour period.

“For all of us who are from here, we all know Elmhurst Hospital as one of the premier medical facilities in our city and a true community anchor and the world got to know that and got to see what we knew all along about the resilient staff here and the resilient public servants of Elmhurst Hospital,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “From your origins of treating wounded Civil War soldiers to your ongoing and lifesaving work treating anyone and everyone who needs medical assistance, Elmhurst Hospital and the exceptional people who work here have always led by example even during our darkest times.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks at a ceremony celebrating the 190th anniversary of Elmhurst Hospital on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (Photos by Paul Frangipane)

Located at the heart of the so-called “epicenter of the epicenter,” Elmhurst Hospital became a refuge for the immigrant community in the surrounding neighborhoods of Corona, Jackson Heights, Woodside and Elmhurst that were decimated during that dark period.

“There has always been a sense of responsibility in being determined defenders of our communities, especially communities of color, communities that are not wanted by others, communities and groups that were told that they were not good enough, they were told they’re not welcome, they were told they’re not American, and I’m so proud to see that we answered the call,” Elmhurst Hospital CEO Helen Arteage said.“We stood together and said, ‘No, you matter. You are enough for us. You are enough to be an American,’ and look at what you did. Let us be unstoppable in removing social and racial barriers for health care.”

Joann Gull, chief nursing officer at Elmhurst Hospital speaks at a ceremony celebrating the 190th anniversary of the hospital on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (Photos by Paul Frangipane)

When Chief Nursing Officer Joann Gull started working at Elmhurst Hospital, she planned on staying for a couple of years and moving on, but changed her mind when she began working there 51 years ago.

“What I found was something that was amazing. It was the culture of the institution, the mission, the people who we got to work with, having the experience of taking care of patients who were really in need, who really gave so much to us who took care of them that I think that was the secret sauce of Elmhurst, that so many of us stayed all these years,” Gull said. “What we did and learned as we went along was that we were always in search of excellence and every opportunity that we had we took to stride for excellence for our patients so that we could provide the best care possible and I thank everyone along the way for the great opportunity to be part of this culture.”

NYC Health + Hospital President and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz spoke of the special relationships that are made at Elmhurst Hospital.

“What I always think about, what really matters is the nurse with the patient, the doctor with the patient, the family with the social workers,” he said. “And I think Elmhurst really demonstrates that and Elmhurst really is about proving the very best care to the individual and I thank you all for that.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.