Archive for the ‘Latest Blog posts’ Category

Tunnels, Trains, and Tubes: Kaiser’s Role in Building an Accessible Transit System

posted on July 14, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

BART trans-bay tube built by Kaiser Steel being barged down Napa river, 1968.

Kaiser Steel was the backbone of San Francisco’s mighty Transamerica Pyramid in 1972. And, Kaiser Steel, and Kaiser Permanente, were both also involved in another major Bay Area construction project that opened the same year – the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART.

Henry J. Kaiser built the first West Coast integrated steel mill in Fontana in 1942 to supply plate for his seven shipyards, and by the 1960s he had fabrication facilities all over the world. The closest to San Francisco was located south of the town of Napa on the Napa River. Today it’s the Napa Pipe Corporation.

Kaiser Steel won the contract to build the transbay tubes, the tunnel through which the trains scoot back and forth between Oakland and San Francisco. The tubes were prefabricated sections 330 feet long, 48 feet wide, and 24 feet high. They were much more complex than a simple drain culvert, having to endure deep water pressure and earthquakes. Special Teflon-coated seismic joints allowed up to a foot of motion without damage.

BART also required tunnel liner rings – 27,000 of them. These were 36-foot-diameter behemoths weighing 6,500 pounds. Each one was composed of six giant fitted parts, and they reinforced 13 miles of tunnel.

A 2002 article in the Napa Valley Register burst with local pride in this accomplishment. Harold Halterman, Vice President of Kaiser Steel’s Fabricating Operations in Napa and Fontana, was quoted as saying “We kept a couple hundred people busy for five years. It was a fascinating time. People came from (all over the world) to see what we had done.”

And when Kaiser Steel was finished, a Kaiser Permanente employee took on a leading role in making BART accessible to all people

Harold Willson on new BART car with Easter Seal poster boy Eric Staley, 1972.

Harold Willson was coal miner with a crushed spine who arrived at the Oakland Permanente Foundation Hospital from West Virginia in 1948. At the Kabat-Kaiser Institute of Neuromuscular Rehabilitation in Vallejo, Calif., he regained mobility and went on to work for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. In the mid-1960s Willson, as a volunteer with the Easter Seal Society, became a staunch advocate for making the then-new BART more accessible. This included services we now take for granted, such as station elevators, ramps, chair-high water fountains and telephones, accessible bathrooms, lowered hand railings, and “kneeling” buses.

While BART was under construction, in 1968 California Governor Ronald Reagan signed Assembly Bill 7, into law, requiring public utilities constructed with state funds to be usable by the physically disabled. This added to BART’s projected costs – just adding elevators (originally, only escalators had been planned) at 28 to 33 stations was projected at $7 million. The city of Berkeley stepped up and offered to pay for the elevator in its Ashby station as a trial.

And it was worth it.

By 1972, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle boasted that “BART Leads Way in Transit System Aid to Handicapped.”

Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, it can claim one admirable distinction- BART is the first rapid transit system in the world to offer 100 per cent usability, at almost every station, for the handicapped. This claim was made proudly today by Harold L. Willson of Alamo, himself handicapped, partly responsible for the installation of special facilities for the handicapped and elderly along BART’s 75-mile system.

According to Willson, “Accessible transportation is often the deciding factor between being dependent on society, friends or family and being independent within society. I’ll never forget that sense of freedom I experienced boarding a BART test train for the first time.”

Henry J. Kaiser was a doer, and once told his long-time attorney Paul Marrin “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.  Figure out a way to do it.” Although Kaiser had already passed away in 1967, surely he would have been proud of Halterman’s and Willson’s accomplishments.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2vm4mFU

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Mending Bodies and Minds – Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo

posted on July 7, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Physical therapy at Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo

Mark Wellman fell from a cliff and broke his spine in 1982 at the age of 22. A well-known mountain climber, Wellman went on to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan seven years later despite his injuries, and was the first person to climb the 3,000-foot cliff using only his arms. Two years later, he summited Half Dome, and later became the first person with paraplegia to sit-ski across the Sierra Nevada.

Wellman received physical therapy and rehabilitation treatment at the Kaiser-Kabat Institute in Vallejo, Calif. (also called the Kabat-Kaiser Institute of Neuromuscular Rehabilitation), now the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center and Hospital which is still in operation. The work in Vallejo built upon the distinctive and important physical rehabilitation work done under the direction of Herman Kabat, MD, at the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, which operated from 1947 to 1962.

Henry J. Kaiser had purchased the Vallejo Community Hospital in March 1947 from the

Permanente Hospital, Vallejo, circa 1948

Federal Works Agency to serve the growing Permanente health plan membership in that corner of the San Francisco Bay Area. The innovative facility had been designed by noted architect Douglas Dacre Stone (1897-1969), who’d also designed Children’s Hospital Oakland and Peralta Hospital. The facility was larger than needed, and in June part of the campus was allocated to the new Kabat-Kaiser rehabilitation program. There was also a Kabat-Kaiser clinic at the Permanente Foundation Hospital in Oakland, but after living quarters were built in Vallejo in late 1947 the Oakland clinic only served outpatients.

Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo, from Collier’s article, 1950

A key impetus behind Kaiser’s involvement in physical rehabilitation was in response to his youngest son Henry Junior (1917-1961) contracting multiple sclerosis in 1944 and being successfully cared for by program director Dr. Kabat. The first Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo administrator was Felix Day, and the medical director of the physical therapy school was physiatrist Ora Leonard Huddleston, MD.

The center in Santa Monica primarily treated patients with polio and multiple sclerosis, but Vallejo handled a much wider population of patients with disabling conditions including stroke and spinal cord injury. A 1954 brochure for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan specifically noted “Members are entitled to rehabilitation and treatment for polio after the acute and contagious state, provided they have had continuous membership since the condition arose, and it originated after April 1, 1954.”

UMWA patients arriving by Pullman train for Kaiser physical therapy, 1948

Interestingly, this last group included coal miners from rural mining communities in the Midwest and East. In 1947 legendary United Mine Workers of America leader John L. Lewis and the UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund partnered with Henry J. Kaiser and the Kabat-Kaiser Institute to provide top-quality medical care and rehabilitation for injured miners. They came across the country on the Southern Pacific’s elegant “Gold Coast Limited,” and when they arrived some had to be handed out through windows because they could not be lifted from their berths onto gurneys.

One of the mine workers to benefit from rehabilitation at Vallejo was Harold Willson, who arrived in 1948 with a crushed spine. There he met his nurse and future wife, regained mobility, and went on to work for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. Willson became a staunch advocate for making the then-new Bay Area Rapid Transit more accessible with elevators, ramps, chair-high water fountains, accessible bathrooms, lowered hand railings, and “kneeling” buses.

Maggie Knott and Dr. Kabat, Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo, from Collier’s article

It was in these early years that great strides were being made in the use of physical therapies to treat neuromuscular disabilities. Dr. Kabat received national publicity in the early 1950s for his work at the Vallejo facility, including a major spread in the popular magazine Collier’s Weekly. The institutes, under the direction of Dr. Kabat and physical therapist Margaret “Maggie” Knott, pioneered the therapy called “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.” Maggie Knott and another physical therapist, Dorothy Voss, published the first textbook on PNF in 1956. PNF has become internationally recognized as one of the most widely used and effective treatments for certain injuries and illnesses.

Wheelchair square dance, from Kabat-Kaiser article in Collier’s

It was also during these years that some in the medical establishment attacked the Permanente Health Plan as “socialized medicine.” Left-sympathetic Dr. Kabat became a casualty, and he resigned from KKI in 1954 to pursue private practice and engage in research. (Also targeted but never harmed was Rene Cailliet, MD, certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and chief of Kabat-Kaiser Santa Monica). Sedgwick Mead, MD, from Harvard University, was appointed medical director of the Vallejo KKI facility and it was renamed the California Rehabilitation Center.

KKI programs included a range of occupational training such as shoe and watch repair. One of their more popular recreational programs was wheelchair square dancing. And a local sports page on March 16, 1950, noted that the Fifth Annual Hayward Area Open Basketball Tournament would host the “First civilian wheelchair basketball team in the world” the “Wheeling Warriors” from KKI, where they would tangle with the National Guard 49ers.

Outdoor physical therapy at Kabat-Kaiser, Vallejo, circa 1960

Because the PNF method works so well, the program at the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo continues to draw graduate students from all over Europe, South America, and Asia. Just as in the early years, all productive approaches are welcome in physical and emotional therapy. A recent article highlighted several patients whose recovery was greatly enhanced by the healing power of visual art.

Kabat-Kaiser Vallejo – mending bodies and minds since 1947.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2tS1jbn

 

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No Getting Round it: An Innovative Approach to Building Design

posted on June 23, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

What is it about circular architecture in Henry J. Kaiser’s facilities?

We know that Henry J. Kaiser was a geodesic dome pioneer. Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation built two of the first civilian domes in 1957, one in Virginia and one in Hawaii. There’s another plan from the same year (never built) for a “Medical office building for the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals with Kaiser Aluminum dome.

The Permanente Foundation hospital at Panorama City (1962-2008) featured seven double circular floors, an example of Dr. Sidney Garfield’s “circles of service” concept. Dr. Garfield explained that in a 1974 interview:

In the center was a work space for the personnel, the supervisor right in the middle, with the public or patients coming in from an outside corridor – the peripheral corridor, central workspace concept. This would permit us to keep the central area clean, as the contaminated areas go out the outside corridors so you don’t get any cross traffic. It kept the orderlies and all the people who moved stretchers out of the central work space and so forth and the supervisor is right there so she can see everything.

Kaiser Child Service Center at Swan Island, circa 1943.

Yet there’s one more – the Portland Child Service Centers built in 1943 for the workers at the Oregonship and Swan Island shipyards. The center at Oregonship opened for children on November 8, 1943, Swan Island Center soon afterwards on November 18.

These structures represented an innovative approach to building that carries over to present at the Kaiser Permanente, although the organization is no longer builds round things – or does it?

Current hospital and building designs focus on environmental stewardship and patient safety, with a healthy dose of aesthetic brilliance thrown in. A news article on how design and healing go hand in hand called out the award-winning 2016 Kaiser Permanente, Kraemer Radiation Oncology Center in Anaheim, Calif., as featuring “fritted glass that evokes a forest and provides both light and privacy.” And it’s round, or at least rounded.

Frank Stewart, Administrator; George Wolff, Architect, Dr. Wallace Neighbor (pointing); Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital, circa 1942.

The 1943 Portland buildings were designed by the Portland, Ore., architectural firm of Wolff and Phillips (George M. Wolff and Truman E. Phillips), creators of several important Kaiser and Permanente facilities.

George Wolff (1899-1978) was a personal friend of Henry Kaiser’s son Edgar, and through that connection drew the firm into designing the worker’s housing at Bonneville Dam in Washington in 1934. In they created the 1942 Northern Permanente Foundation Hospital to serve the workers in Kaiser’s three northwest shipyards, as well as the wartime city of Vanport of almost 40,000 people.

After the war, the firm designed the conversion of Ford’s Willow Run plant in Michigan when Henry Kaiser took it over to produce automobiles, and later they designed the 1953 state-of-the art Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Los Angeles.

Playground core, Oregon child service center.

Unlike the more conventional design of the Maritime Child Development Center in Richmond, Calif., the Oregon centers put classrooms in a circle around six separate playgrounds.

We hear about this idea in a March 1944 article “Designed for 24-Hour Child Care” in Architectural Record, where Wolff and Phillips credited the facility design to the “ring school” concept originally conceived of by modernist architect Richard Joseph Neutra.

Neutra (1892 –1970) was an Austrian-American architect who spent most of his career in Southern California. Like Wolff and Phillips, his style was “modernist” with plentiful natural light and open space, and during the mid-1920s was evolving a radial site layout for public facilities.

Richard Neutra’s Ring Plan School project model, circa 1926.

A March 2000 article in UCLA Today explains more about Neutra’s role in this design concept:

Perhaps the most striking examples of this belief were the various schools designed by Neutra in Los Angeles. His project for a Ring Plan School, with its ring of classrooms around a play area and a running track on the roof, was adopted in 1934 by the Los Angeles School Board and built in the Bell district. The building was much celebrated for its qualities of light, relationship of classrooms to outdoors and color of materials.

One of his ring plan schools was built in 1960 at Lemoore Naval Air Station near Fresno; it’s now the Neutra Elementary School.

The design of the Portland Child Service Center was innovative, effective, and exemplary. A 2009 historic building assessment of the Portland public schools noted:

The building’s form and details rejected the architectural conventions that characterized the previous era of school construction. The Portland Child Service Center (demolished) captures the ideals that would be explored in Portland’s public schools in the post-war period.

Rejecting conventions and capturing ideals – that would be a good characterization of Henry J. Kaiser’s approach to solving national problems.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2t4sIH8

 

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Henry J. Kaiser Jr. on Fathers and Family

posted on June 16, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Henry J. Kaiser, Jr, circa 1948

Henry J. Kaiser, Jr., (1917-1961) was Henry J. Kaiser’s younger son. On December 17, 1942, he spoke at a huge gathering of Kaiser Industries leaders under the theme “Together We Build.”

His comments resonate through the years on this Father’s Day 2017:

There has never been a time in my life when I could not turn to my father when I was in trouble and ask for counsel, no matter what he was doing. He had time enough, strength enough, to give me new strength, and new perspective. Dad, Edgar, and I have always talked things over. It is never one of us who fixes a problem, it is all of us.

And what is true of our personal family is true of every Kaiser enterprise. And we are the family, those of us here tonight, dependent on each other’s counsel.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2sHcbrP

 

Kabat-Kaiser: Improving Quality of Life Through Rehabilitation

posted on June 14, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Kabat Kaiser Santa Monica, 1952, publicity photo with film and television actor Howard Keel.

Polio and multiple sclerosis. These disabling diseases of the nervous system posed daunting medical challenges as the Permanente Health Plan emerged from World War II and the nation looked toward an improved quality of life. Until a polio vaccine was developed in the mid-1950s, it was considered one of the most feared diseases in the United States, and MS is the most widespread disabling neurological condition affecting young adults in the world.

California’s first polio epidemic broke out in 1934-1935, with a second following in 1948. And, on a very personal note, Henry J. Kaiser’s youngest son Henry Junior (1917-1961) contracted MS in 1944.

Margaret “Maggie” Knott, PT, and Herman Kabat, MD, Washington, DC, 1947.

Henry J. Kaiser was determined to find the best therapy available, and through a 1946 Readers Digest article learned of Herman Kabat, MD, and his successful treatments. Kaiser sent Dr. Sidney Garfield, the founding physician of his successful World War II shipyard health plan, to assess the situation. Impressed with Dr. Kabat’s work, Dr. Garfield joined him to treat the younger Henry with considerable success. The rehabilitation program was deemed worthy of greater institutional support, and the Kabat-Kaiser Institute was born in Washington, D.C. (where Dr. Kabat practiced) in 1946. It was dedicated to “the restoration of the physically handicapped and to rehabilitate them to their optimum capacity, socially, economically, and physically.”

Eventually there would be two centers in California, providing the largest non-governmental civilian rehabilitation program in the United States for patients with neurological disorders. The Washington facility was followed by one in Vallejo (August, 1947) and a second in Santa Monica shortly thereafter. There was briefly a center connected to the Kaiser Oakland hospital, and the Washington facility was closed soon after 1950 when Dr. Kabat moved to Vallejo to direct the program.

Kabat-Kaiser Santa Monica (large middle building)

The Santa Monica facility started out as the Edgewater Beach Hotel around 1925. In 1944 it was called the Ambassador Hotel and taken over by Army Air Corps as a Redistribution Station to rotate men out of combat. After the war, it became a private club, but not for long. The Permanente Foundation bought the building in October 1948 and opened it the next month as the Kabat-Kaiser Institute. A hospital ward was added January 1949.

A news account from 1952 described the setting:

First impression on entering the Santa Monica institute is that of stepping into a luxurious beach resort. A large swimming pool, beautifully furnished lounge, and inviting glassed-in beach-front patio are located on the ground floor. Shorts, pedal pushers, swim suits, and jeans are the principal attire. Second impression hits one like an avalanche. Every person in sight is either in a wheel chair, walking with crutches or body braces; or being pushed along on a gurney. Everyone appears happy and busy, going to or from a water therapy room, a physiotherapy section or exercise room.

“Many Will Rise and Walk” article by Paul du Kruif about Dr. Kabat, Readers Digest, February 1946.

Many volunteer welfare and social organizations contribute to the entertainment and special needs of the patients. Recreation includes nightly programs of moving pictures, “wheel-chair” square dances, bingo, water volley ball or variety shows.

Given the center’s proximity to Hollywood, it was often the site of cameo appearances by movie stars. But that relationship took a deeper step when the actress Ida Lupino directed (and co-wrote, and co-produced) a film there. Never Fear (1949, also titled The Young Lovers), a story about a beautiful young dancer with a promising career who contracted polio and struggled to recover, had personal meaning for Lupino, who had contracted polio herself in 1934. Lupino made the film to combat the public fear of polio during the 1948-49 epidemic, and captured the power of the center’s program using actual patients and, yes, a wheelchair dance.

Maggie Knott with patient, Kabat-Kaiser Institute, 1951.

The centers were busy; in 1950 the D.C. center was treating almost 200 patients, Vallejo saw over 400, and Santa Monica served almost 600. The staff at Santa Monica included over 60 therapists, psychologists and consulting physicians. Margaret “Maggie” Knott was the exceptional lead physical therapist who became world famous, along with Herman Kabat, for developing, practicing and teaching the technique of “proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.” PNF is a form of flexibility therapy that involves stretching and contracting targeted muscle groups.

Joel Bryan (1937-2005) was the Founder and Director of Disabled Students’ Services at UC Riverside and UC Davis. He was also a patient at Kabat-Kaiser Santa Monica from 1951 to 1954, and recalled his treatment in a 2000 interview:

Three months after I arrived there I could get up in a wheelchair for the first time. My spine was fused later, which straightened out my very significant scoliosis. I was 5’4″ when I got polio, and by the time I was sixteen or seventeen I was 6’2″ or 6’3″ – stretched out. There’s a lot of growing that occurs, and my back just wouldn’t support it. Those things got straightened out. I wound up with the use of my fingers on my right hand and the bicep on my left arm.

Station wagon for transporting patients to recreational activities donated to Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica by the Federation of Women’s Telephone Workers of Southern California, 1952. Standing left is Raymond T. McHugh, K-K administrator, next to Mary V. Marsteller, president of the FWTWSC.

In 1955, Dr. Kabat left the organization. The Kaiser Foundation Hospitals assumed complete control and renamed the two facilities the California Rehabilitation Centers. In 1962 the name was changed to Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center to avoid confusion with state institutions with a similar name.

Santa Monica’s rehabilitation portion closed in 1962, the convalescent facility remained open until patients could be reassigned, and the site was demolished in 1964. The Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center and Hospital in Vallejo continues to this day.

 

Also see: The story of Kabat Kaiser Vallejo.

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2t2tSPU

 

 

Edmund (Ted) Van Brunt, Former Kaiser Permanente Research Director and Pioneer of Electronic Health Records, Dies at age 91

posted on June 9, 2017

“Dr. Edmund Van Brunt, resident in Medicine at our Geary St . Hospital (center) answers questions of Jack Katzow, intern, and Mrs. Emily McEvoy, RN, about modern resuscitation equipment which all professional staff are instructed how to use in emergencies involving cardiac arrest.” Reporter, May 1961.

 

Excerpted from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research obituary by Janet Byron

 

 

Edmund (Ted) Van Brunt, MD, former director of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and a pioneer in the use of electronic health records in medical science, died at his home in Berkeley on May 19, 2017.  A native of Oakland and longtime Berkeley resident, Dr. Van Brunt’s medical career with Kaiser Permanente spanned 36 years, from his appointment as staff physician in the Department of Internal Medicine in Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco medical center in 1964, to his retirement as director of the Division of Research in 1991.

“Dr. Van Brunt’s devotion to research helped build our Division into a nationally respected group,” said Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, current director of the Division of Research. “He was revered for his steadiness and breadth of vision.”

“Dr. Van Brunt demonstrates proper utilization of cardiac treatment equipment.” Planning for Health newsletter Summer 1967.

In 1966, Dr. Morris Collen appointed Dr. Van Brunt as project chief of the Medical Data System in Oakland and San Francisco, a computer-based patient medical record system with a database designed to support both patient care and health care delivery research. The Medical Data System project developed a multifacility, computer-based system to support the medical data requirements of one million health plan members, 1,000 physicians, and numerous professional and paramedical support staff. The system consisted of two IBM mainframe computers, and medical data from Kaiser Permanente’s multiphasic physical exam was recorded on punch cards for processing.

 

Short link: http://k-p.li/2snbzaB

 

Reaching for the Sky: How Kaiser Steel Helped Reshape San Francisco

posted on May 31, 2017

Topping out of Transamerica Pyramid, featuring Kaiser Steel, 3/28/1972.

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Forty five years after the Transamerica Pyramid redefined the San Francisco skyline, the city is witnessing a new exclamation mark – the Salesforce Tower. The upstart’s roof is 970 feet above the ground, and a top spike sprouts another 100 feet. It’s easily the tallest building in San Francisco and the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Until now, the Transamerica Pyramid was San Francisco’s distinctive giant. And it was built with Kaiser Steel.

News accounts featured the Pyramid’s “topping out” (or “topping off”) on March 28, 1972. It was 863 feet tall, and would have been taller at an even 1,000 feet but for a taxpayer’s lawsuit and other community opposition. And its unusual shape, intended to reduce its upper mass and improve views, was denounced by S.F. Chronicle architecture critic Alan Temko, who sniffed it “…would be out of place, even in Los Angeles, or in Las Vegas, where it belongs. It certainly doesn’t belong in San Francisco.”

Wrong.

Last year the S.F. Chronicle’s architecture and urban design critic John King praised its glories – “… an unforgettable . . . high-rise in an unforgettable setting… [which] stands serenely above the clutter of overhead wires and sidewalk fuss.”

The accompanying AP wirephoto of the “topping out” ceremony clearly shows the final steel beam being hoisted by crane – both emblazoned with KAISER STEEL.

Transamerica Pyramid construction, 5/3/1971.

Of all the businesses built by Henry J. Kaiser, historian Mark S. Foster called Kaiser Steel the “linchpin” of the powerful Kaiser industrial empire. That global reach used to include aluminum, cement, electronics, and automobile manufacturing, but all that’s left now is the Kaiser Permanente health care program. The 1980s were not kind to the American steel industry. Kaiser’s massive Fontana steel mill, built to make plate steel for cargo ships during World War II, was shut down in 1983 and sold off in 1984. Within a few years the company was all but gone.

Jesse Lee Beeson, Sr., who passed away this year, was the longtime foreman of Kaiser Steel’s “raising gang.” That team worked on giant construction projects all over the world, and placed the steel and assembled the precast concrete outer surface on the Pyramid. Mr. Beeson always considered this to be his greatest accomplishment.

Another detail in the news story was mention that the last beam sprouted “… a 4-foot redwood sapling.” It’s barely visible in the photo, but “… according to local [ironworker] custom, [a sapling] must accompany the last unit of a skyscraper’s skeleton. The sapling will be taken down and later planted in a half-acre plaza at the foot of the building.” That redwood joined 79 other siblings brought from a tree farm in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains. The Cultural Landscape Foundation praises this urban oasis.

Rather than a “curious local custom,” topping out is a widespread early Scandinavian construction practice, and was also followed in a recent Salesforce Tower event, hosted by Salesforce CEO (and health care philanthropist) Marc Benioff.

Reaching for the sky, the Henry J. Kaiser way. Welcome to San Francisco, Mr. Benioff.

 

Did you know that Kaiser Steel built the transbay tubes for Bay Area Rapid Transit in the late 1960s?
More Kaiser Steel stories to come.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/2rcOFBC

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Hot Off the Presses! Kaiser to Build Helicopters to Combat Submarine Menace

posted on May 17, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

U.S. cargo routes, World War II; from Fore ‘n’ Aft, 5/26/1944.

Headline, April 30, 1943: “Kaiser to build helicopters to combat submarine menace.” By the mid-1940s, it seemed like there was almost no project that Henry J. Kaiser wasn’t trying to improve. Kaiser’s innovation wasn’t inventing things, it was looking at an existing problem and unleashing massive human talent to solve it. That worked for dams, that worked for ships, and that worked for health care.

Reporter Blair Moody of the North American Newspaper Alliance wrote about the U.S. Navy’s interest in using ship-based aircraft or helicopters to defend convoys against their number one threat: Hitler’s  U-boats. Moody offered some of the deal details:

While the Army termed the craft “still experimental” and the Navy’s position remained confusing, Kaiser walked off with a contract to develop and build them for the lend-lease administration in response to British demand. The contract was announced by R.W. Seabury, president of Cargoes, Inc., a government corporation subsidiary to [Under Secretary of State] Edward R. Stettinius Jr.’s lend-lease administration.

The Bristol Courier in Pennsylvania blared this headline the next day: “Kaiser May Build Helicopters Here” at Bristol’s Fleetwings aircraft plant.

Yet despite the best of intentions and the enormous efforts by many parties, helicopter technology was just taking off in World War II and didn’t get used to the extent envisioned.  The Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives, representing the preeminent U.S. helicopter developer, concedes “…helicopters remained largely untested and undeveloped and thus never played the role that many envisioned for them during the war. Given the declining submarine threat, those that wanted to develop the helicopter found it difficult to shift national policy.”

Vought-Sikorsky VS-300, 1941. When mounted with floats it was the first practical amphibious helicopter.

“Experimental” is the operative phrase here. These aircraft were still in their earliest stages, and the demands of combat flying – especially at sea – were daunting. What’s more, the expedited development of war technology caused friction between the Navy and the Army, and there were accusations that Kaiser’s efforts to take on the Navy helicopter contract would “interfere with the Army’s procurement program.” The Army had contracted with the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of the powerful United Aircraft Corporation, to develop their helicopter.

Henry J. Kaiser confirmed that his contract would not in any way subvert United Aircraft’s work, and declared:

In line with my usual procedure, whenever I am requested by any department of the government to perform any specific task for the war effort. I gladly respond, especially when I am convinced personally that the work will contribute to victory. I have agreed with Mr. Seabury to build helicopters for him and the engineering is already under way.

And it was.

Henry J. Kaiser had just purchased a controlling interest in the aircraft manufacturer Fleetwings of Bristol, Penn., a month before to become a division of Kaiser Cargo, Inc. Fleetwings had a long and proud aviation history, which included the limited edition XBTK-1 torpedo bomber as a technical response to the need for smaller aircraft that could work well on compact aircraft carriers such as Kaiser’s CVE escort carriers.

But as we know, helicopters were in their infancy and . . . experimental. Sikorsky built the first production helicopter in the world; the military prototype was the XR4, and its first ferry flight was January 14, 1942.

Fleetwings plant, Bristol, Penn., November 1944

Before Kaiser’s acquisition of Fleetwings had gone through, he’d already been working on the helicopter project. A confidential memo dated March 26, 1943, from Frank de Ganahl [vice president and general manager of Fleetwings] reveals that Kaiser was pursuing two development tracks. One was called the “Sikorsky-type” helicopter, to be headed up and engineered by Ralph McClarren, Secretary of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, to design a two passenger, 2850-pound helicopter.  By late May, they had transferred all of that work to Fleetwings, whose primary role was to supply 25 percent of the floor space in the hangar so that McClarren and his crew could work.

Another highly confidential helicopter project would be headed up by Frank’s brother, Carl de Ganahl [President of Fleetwings], and would consist primarily of engineering studies with minor experimental shop projects.

A memo from Carl to Frank on March 29, 1943, described a meeting Carl had with Lieutenant Colonel H. F. Gregory at Wright Field. Henry J Kaiser had asked Carl to explore obtaining a production order for helicopters. Despite his reservations that the Sikorsky XR4 [later the CR4 or R4 model] might not really be ready for production, Col. Gregory had placed an order due to the urgency of the submarine menace and sought to determine which changes would be required to make shipboard operation practical in collaboration with the British Navy. Carl wrote of the efforts to attract working prototypes beyond the Sikorsky model:

I understood from Gregory that all rotary wing aircraft made to date in the size category approaching the size of the experimental order now with Sikorsky have not been successful. Just why, nobody seems to know. Gregory does not know if there is some fundamental aerodynamic problem inherent with the size of the machine, or just what it is.

Sikorsky R4 in use during World War II

History proved Col. Gregory’s concerns to be unwarranted; the R4 served as the most successful helicopter of the war. Production started in the first quarter of 1943 and by the end of the war close to 130 R4s were produced and used in the Pacific theater in a variety of roles.

When Carl informed Mr. Kaiser of his meeting, Kaiser suggested that Carl go back to Col. Gregory to get an experimental order for one large Sikorsky machine and a smaller one.

“This, Col. Gregory flatly refused to consider. He said that if we wish to come to him with a proposal on a helicopter with adequate design figures and drawings that they would be very glad to consider same; and on its merits would or would not give us a contract.”

Among other reasons, Col. Gregory was concerned that it would take Sikorsky valuable time to educate the Kaiser team rather than applying Sikorsky’s efforts to the development of its own machines.

On June 1943, Admiral Vickery (Vice-Chairman of the U.S, Maritime Commission) announced that experiments were being made to add a helicopter flight deck to a Liberty ship being built in Baltimore, the first time that a cargo vessel would be equipped with “aerial auxiliaries.” Vickery claimed that helicopters had been successfully flown off of tankers, but the effort was never completed.

Kaiser Fleetwings XH-10 helicopter, 1945

By May 1944, the Kaiser team had designed and flown one of their prototypes successfully. It was called the XH-10 “Twirleybird” two-seater, with a standard configuration of three main blades and a tail rotor, and was very similar to Sikorsky’s R4. But the XH-10 was never evaluated by the Army Air Force, and by then the war was winding down. Unlike his ships and planes, Henry J. Kaiser’s helicopters would not be part of the victory, and he moved on to other projects.

In the late 1950s Fleetwings had one more shot to produce a military turbine-powered observation helicopter, but the project stumbled and the company closed aircraft operations in 1962.

 

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Mother of Invention: Henry J. Kaiser’s Inspiration for Building a Health Plan

posted on May 11, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Mary Kaiser in wedding dress, 1873; photo from Henry J. Kaiser: Western Colossus, by Albert Heiner.

Every institution has a story about how it started. For the health care plan now known as Kaiser Permanente, it began with Henry J. Kaiser’s mother.

In his last published interview, three and a half months before he passed away on August 14, 1967, Henry J. Kaiser stated “I see the day when no one need die for lack of medical care, as my own mother died in my arms when I was 16 years old.”

Mary Kaiser, a practical nurse, was only 52 years old when she died on December 1, 1899.

It was a story told and retold. During World War II medical author Paul de Kruif helped bring Kaiser’s novel health plan to national attention in Kaiser Wakes the Doctors. De Kruif described Kaiser’s motivation:

It was the lack of a doctor – who might have saved her life – that had killed Kaiser’s own mother at the age of 49… He was raw about this medical injustice. [Later in life] it offended him that he and his family could command the best medical advice, while millions of human beings were medically kicked around.

Henry Kaiser himself was vocal about his motivation. At a speech he made before a doctor’s group at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel June 9, 1948, he said:

Mother would not go to a hospital as a charity patient because she believed in giving, not taking, charity. … I propose to earn millions of dollars and put millions into hospitals and to devote my life toward helping my fellow citizens who, as my own Mother and Father did, suffer because they cannot pay for the full services they require.

Henry J. Kaiser speaking at dedication of Permanente Foundation Hospital, Oakland, August 21, 1942.

More details emerged over time. He later said that Mary’s specific condition was Bright’s Disease, a constellation of kidney diseases now known as chronic nephritis. In addition to relative poverty (Henry’s father also had health problems and was going blind), another complication for her care was that the family lived in small town in rural New York.

Historian Mark. S. Foster’s biography of Henry J. Kaiser points out some inconsistencies in Henry’s story. For one thing, Henry was actually 17 years old when his mother passed. And there’s no corroborating evidence that Henry was present at her death.

But all origin stories value mission over details, and this one is no different.

According to one of Kaiser Permanente’s founding physicians, Morris Collen, MD, Henry Kaiser told the audience at the dedication of the Oakland Hospital in 1942 “My mother died in my arms because she didn’t receive adequate medical care, and I vowed that I would do whatever I could so this wouldn’t happen to anybody else.”

The health plan that Henry Kaiser built has certainly been proof of a son’s love for his mother.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mary.

 

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Looking Through You: How a Kaiser Permanente Nurse Transformed Health Education

posted on May 4, 2017

Transparent woman on cover of 1967 Kaiser Foundation Medical Care Program report.

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

In 1967, wife and husband Bobbie and Morrie Collen toured Montreal’s Expo 67 and were transfixed by a pair of transparent mannequins that rotated and lit up to reveal organs and display physiology. They later purchased the figures and shipped them back to Oakland to become the centerpiece of a major Kaiser Permanente health education program led by Bobbie.

Frances Bobbie Collen (née Diner, 1914-1996; always called Bobbie, never Frances) was an accomplished professional as well as being the wife of Morris “Morrie” Collen, MD. She was a nurse with a master’s degree in health education, and was the force behind the groundbreaking Health Education Research Center at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland hospital.

Bobbie graduated from Winnipeg (Canada) General Hospital as a Registered Nurse in 1937 and worked at the University of Minnesota Hospital where she met her future husband, Morrie. They wed secretly when he was a medical student because the university hospital would not hire married nurses. Later they moved to Chicago where he interned at Michael Reese Hospital and she was the evening supervisor at the Meyer House patient wing. While there she also a graduate student at the University of Chicago in Nursing Education.

Bobbie Collen, RN, circa 1980.

In 1939 the Collens moved to California where Dr. Collen began his residency at Los Angeles County Hospital. When World War II began, Dr. Collen’s 4-F status due to asthma kept him from serving in the military, but the Permanente health plan was ramping up to care for defense industry workers. Dr. Collen was one of the first ten physicians hired by Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney Garfield, MD.

Bobbie was a founding member of the Permanente Medical Wives in Oakland, an important support group during the challenging postwar years. Dr. Collen’s oral history credits the group as a key factor in the success of Permanente medicine.

But it was Bobbie’s role in patient education that would be her lasting legacy in the advancement of health care. Dr. Garfield asked her to be the Director of the Educational Research Center in the spring of 1967: “Start with the development of a Health Exhibits Theater as an adjunct to our planned health care program for the healthy in our Health Plan membership, because this first step will be the easiest.”

Dr. Garfield with transparent man in Health Education Center

In May 1967 Bobbie submitted her thesis “Factors Associated with Continuing Education of Adult Women” for a Master of Arts in Education at U.C. Berkeley. Then the Collens toured a dozen facilities on the East Coast, including the Cleveland Health Museum and the Lankenau Hospital Education Center in Philadelphia.

Her field work in reviewing health education displays led her to this conclusion:

In my opinion, they have all missed one important feature which is a further step forward in preventive medicine, and that is, to demonstrate not only what the body looks like on the inside, and how it functions, but also how to care for it to keep it healthy. Here I think exists the potential which, when materialized in the shape of a Health Exhibits Theater, will provide a service to our membership that is unique in the country.

The Health Education Research Center at 3779 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland (next to the Kaiser Permanente Oakland hospital) opened its doors in January 1969 as a supporting function for Dr. Collen’s Multiphasic Health Testing Services.

The Principal Investigator for the demonstration research project was Krikor Soghikian, MD, and Bobbie Collen was the Education Director. The U.S. Public Health Service partially supported the Center through the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute because of the research component and its potential application elsewhere in the nation.

One key feature of the Center was the Health Library which opened July 1969, equipped with 24 individual projection booths for viewing films, slide-sound programs, and videotaped TV programs.  A patient would visit the library with a physician’s “prescription” to see a specific program.  Adjacent to the Library was an exhibit area that featured the transparent man and woman, a variety of health exhibits, and a children’s area with educational games, toys, and play figures. Later, when the Center was relocated, the children’s section included a doll with leg braces, a stuffed elephant with a hearing aid, and a monkey in a wheelchair.

Caren Quay, MLS, started as the Center’s first librarian in 1970. She recalled that from the beginning visitors requested more information, so she began to build an extensive collection of books and audiovisual materials, with every title reviewed by Permanente Medical Group physicians.

The health librarian would retrieve the prescribed audio-visual program from the files and play it on the projector in the individual’s booth. The list of educational videos grew to over 250 titles; a notation on one of the librarian’s catalogs records that the most popular subjects were stress, nutrition, birth control, breast self-examination, headaches, lifestyles, and high blood pressure.

Health Education Library for Patients, librarian Caren Quay at desk, circa 1974.

The program was quite successful. Audio-visual requests grew from 98 in 1969 to almost 8,000 by mid-1973. Attendance for women was triple that of men. Dr. Collen reflected on how well it reached members of the community:

They would bring in schoolchildren from all over Oakland, who would come in and go through this health education center. They would look at the exhibits—there was a normal lung and a smoker, smoker’s black lung, and I think that helped a lot of kids realize what smoking can do.

After Dr. Garfield and Mrs. Collen passed away (1984 and 1996, respectively) the education display lost its primary advocates. The grant money ran out and the Oakland hospital needed the space. The transparent man and woman went to U.C. Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. But what continued was an expanding role for health educators and the growth of health education centers at the Kaiser Permanente medical centers for patients and members of the community.

Health Education Library, 1978.

Ms. Quay later became the health information specialist in Northern California’s department of Patient Education and Health Promotion, and recently reflected on the legacy of the program:

The Health Library broke ground as the first library I know of in the U.S. to provide health and medical information to the lay person. It was the model and inspiration (and then flagship, resource, and consulting lead) for health education centers that provided health information (and more) for the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers throughout Northern California and, eventually, for the other regions of the Medical Care Program. The library served as a model for Planetree in San Francisco and for others throughout the country.

Dr. Collen lamented in his oral history that “[Bobbie] doesn’t get enough credit . . . for all the things she contributed.”

On this Nurses Week we thank Bobbie Collen, RN, for improving public health through education.

 

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