Don Kortz, a board member with Health One and the Rose Medical Center, has dedicated much of his adult life to the hospital. He has served on both the hospital’s board and the board of the Rose …
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Don Kortz, a board member with Health One and the Rose Medical Center, has dedicated much of his adult life to the hospital. He has served on both the hospital’s board and the board of the Rose Community Foundation, but his history with Rose can be traced back to the very beginning.
Although he was only a baby at the time, Kortz says he can remember the day Dwight D. Eisenhower, then an Army general, came to Denver in August 1948 to dedicate the cornerstone to the General Rose Memorial Hospital.
More than 70 years ago, Eisenhower came to honor his friend who died in the closing days of World War II. Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose would be the namesake of the hospital, which was built in the Hale neighborhood community in 1948.
“I remember being in (my mother’s) arms,” Kortz said. “I’ll never forget that moment.”
Eisenhower served in World War II with Rose, who grew up in Denver and was the highest ranking Jewish officer at the time. Rose died in action at age 45 while serving in Germany.
During a 70th anniversary event for the hospital on Nov. 7, a new museum room was opened at Rose Medical Center, 4567 E. Ninth Ave., including the cornerstone dedicated by Eisenhower. The event also had a special unveiling of a newly restored portrait of Gen. Rose, which hangs in the lobby.
Before the unveiling of the portrait, Marshall Fogel, author of “Major General Maurice Rose: The Most Decorated Battletank Commander is U.S. Military History,” gave a speech on the character of the general. Fogel said that Rose was man who fought alongside his men, instead of leading from the back. He was a member of the 3D Armored Division, which also sent its framed insignia in honor of the occasion.
Since first opening its doors in 1949, the hospital has changed both name and ownership. But staff and board members still fight for the same principle that Rose was founded on: that medicine and good health is meant for all.
That “steadiness of mission” is part of what made Kortz want to be a board member in the first place. He added that although technology of how people are taken care of has changed, the idea of caring for people has not.
“That’s the tradition that carries this place on today,” he said. “People get sick, you take care of them.”
The idea for the hospital was first voiced in 1945 when several Jewish leaders came together in Denver wanting to create a more inclusive medical space. The city’s population was growing after the war, and these men wanted to open a hospital where Jewish physicians returning from Europe could have a place to work without fear of discrimination.
The hospital continued in its mission to serve all in the Denver community for more than 40 years before being acquired by Health One in 1995. Prior to the sale, the hospital had been operating as a nonprofit. As part of the legal requirements of switching from a nonprofit to a for-profit institution, the hospital created the Rose Community Foundation from the proceeds of the sale. Kortz served as the first president and CEO.
Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, the current president and CEO, said Rose Community Foundation’s mission is very closely aligned with the hospital’s founding mission of equality and continues to be “infused by those values.” The foundation works with organizations dedicated to Jewish life and education, as well as refugee communities and those particularly vulnerable to hate, she said. Eichenbaum Lent also said the foundation strives to honor the namesake of the hospital, Maurice Rose.
“Gen. Rose lead from the front, and we aspire to do that for greater Denver,” she said.
As the hospital continued to grow, it continued to serve marginalized communities in Denver. Shortly after opening in 1949, the hospital accredited Edmond Noel to be the first black doctor able to work in a hospital space.
Gary Jackson, who serves as a judge on the Denver City Court, said that Noel was his family doctor. Because of discrimination and segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, Jackson said Noel still held his main practice in an office at 2800 Race St. But, if more severe medical issues arose, Noel would be able to take his patients to Rose and treat them there.
“He couldn’t go anywhere else,” Jackson said. “The diversity and inclusivity and what I call racial justice issues was so entwined with the Noel family and that’s why I had to be here.”
Noel’s wife, Rachel, was also instrumental to educational equality as the first black board member of the Denver Public Schools, Jackson said.
During the 70th anniversary celebration for the hospital, Noel’s son Buddy said his family was very proud to see his father’s legacy honored by Rose. He added that accrediting a black doctor during the peak of segregation could not have been easy for either his father or for hospital officials at Rose. But, he said it meant the hospital “started off on the right foot.”
“It’s just very special,” Buddy said. “Seventy years later, it’s great to be smiling about it.”
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