by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer
Healthy living benefits, women’s progress, and nursing history among past year’s blog subjects
In 2013, the quest to bring to light the best episodes in Kaiser Permanente’s history led us to a wide range of topics.
Our blog subjects included World War II Home Front stories, a little known saga about pioneering nurse practitioners in Sacramento, and the highlights of the 60-year career of Kaiser Permanente researcher/physician Morris Collen, MD, who turned 100 this fall.
We covered a special event featuring actor Geena Davis that showcased women, including a few Kaiser Permanente leaders, who overcame gender and ethnic discrimination to achieve success.
We got to unearth little known facts about Henry J. Kaiser’s part in the construction of the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge, and we found buried video assets in our archive to tell the Bay Bridge story in film for the first time.
We were also able to produce a video clip capturing scenes of the medical staff who worked with Sidney Garfield, MD, caring for workers at the Grand Coulee Dam site in Washington State in the 1930s.
Healthy lifestyle promotion has deep roots
In our collaboration with the National Park Service, we enjoyed an opportunity to revisit the surprising benefits of food rationing during World War II. We also carried stories of the Rosie the Riveter Trust and its funding of community projects in Richmond, Calif., including “Rosie’s Girls”, an initiative to motivate girls from low-income families in their career choices.
Also, in Richmond, we participated in the 2013 Martin Luther King, Jr., volunteer day with Urban Tilth, a growing community garden project that harvests a crop of fresh fruits and vegetables for local consumption. Healthy lifestyles also got a push with a blog about the health benefits of walking.
Mining for history nuggets
For Lincoln Cushing, a highlight of the year was the opportunity to interview Jim Gersbach, Senior Hospital Communication Consultant for the Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region.
Gersbach, who was with Kaiser Permanente for 27 years, lived through much of our history and has an amazing understanding of the organization.
The Gersbach interview will find its way into Kaiser Permanente’s collection of its leaders’ oral histories, many developed by UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office. Here’s a taste of the conversation with Gersbach:
“Having worked (at Kaiser Permanente) for a quarter century, I strangely enough find that I have personal memories about what have now become historical periods of time.
“We’ve been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years, even back in the 1940s. (Looking back on our history), it’s really about asking, “What are (Kaiser Permanente’s) consistent values that don’t change over time?”
Collaborating to tell our story
Over the past year, we’ve collaborated with our partners at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park to help tell the Kaiser Permanente origins story in the permanent museum displays to be unveiled in the spring. In 2014, we will carry stories in our blog about news and events at the budding park.
We also look forward to sharing the stories about the opening of the Oakland Medical Center’s historical displays within the state-of-the-art hospital to open in 2014.
We’ve worked with the medical center staff to congregate assets for dynamic displays to tell the multifaceted 75-year history of Kaiser Permanente, including a section on the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing.
Heritage staff has supplied historical photos and factual material for other publications, including the Kaiser Permanente Procurement and Supply Department’s print newsletter, The Source, which won a national award.
We also contributed to materials developed by the Kaiser Permanente Latino Association and the Labor Management Partnership, which carried several short articles about labor history in the magazine Hank.
Other assets surfacing this year in Kaiser Permanente archives allowed the detailing of Henry J. Kaiser’s role in construction of the Caldecott Tunnel and his pioneering in broadcasting during the 1960s.
We’ve also found material that allowed us to tell tales of Kaiser’s strong personal interest in speedboat racing, and to offer glimpses into his exploits in the manufacture of cars, such as the racing Henry J and the Darrin sports car that caused a stir in the 1950s.