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The Story of Dr. Sidney R. Garfield

Sidney Garfield, 1930's

“It’s about time,” declares Jay Crosson, MD, a recently retired physician executive at Kaiser Permanente, in his foreword to The Story of Sidney R. Garfield – The Visionary Who Turned Sick Care into Health Care (Permanente Press, 2009). “For too long,” writes Crosson, “Sidney Garfield has stood in the giant shadow cast by his more celebrated partner and friend, Henry J. Kaiser… (whose) name and fame live on, mainly in association with the only nonprofit organization ever incorporated by the builder of more than 100 for-profit companies – Kaiser Permanente. But the physician whose extraordinary vision and daring innovations in health care delivery gave birth to that same organization remains largely unrecognized beyond the select circle of medical historians and the heritage-minded physicians and staff of Kaiser Permanente.”

Sidney R. Garfield (1905-1984) is indeed one of the great under-appreciated geniuses of 20th century American medicine.

Starting out from the humble beginnings of a 12-bed hospital in the middle of southern California’s Mojave Desert, where he tended to injured industrial workers on the California aqueduct through the early years of the Great Depression, he not only went on to create the nation’s largest private, nonprofit, vertically integrated health care organization (Kaiser Permanente); he virtually reinvented the economics and organizational structure of health care delivery by envisioning and demonstrating the manifold advantages of the prepaid, group practice model  – a model that many today view as a necessary element of effective health care reform.Continue reading…