Working for social justice at Montefiore and Einstein


  • Gerald A. Paccione


Victor W. Sidel was the third head of Montefiore Medical Center’s Department of Social Medicine. Founded by Ephraim Bluestone and initially led by Martin Cherkasky and George Silver, the Department pioneered and implemented the vision of a “hospital without walls.” Sidel took that vision further by choosing to work primarily in health care rather than medical care, with the well rather than the sick, and with people rather than patients. The Department of Social Medicine of the 1970s created a discipline in “clinical public health” and landmark initiatives in the field: the Community Health Participation Program, the Child Care Health Project, the Addiction Services Agency Consultation and Training Project, methadone maintenance programs, prison health programs at Rikers Island, curricula in community and social medicine in universities across the New York City area, and international scholarship and advocacy, particularly involving China and Latin America. This article briefly describes these novel programs of the time and their descendants in the 21st century, emphasizing the formative impact of Sidel’s Department of Social Medicine of the 1970s and 1980s on Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s work today, both in the Bronx and globally.