Archive for the ‘Latest Blog posts’ Category

Mother’s Day: A Wartime Tribute

posted on May 10, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Mother’s Day photo, Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft, May 12, 1944.

Fore ‘n’ Aft, May 12, 1944:

Sunday is Mother’s Day.

Never before has this fitting day of tribute to America’s mothers held the meaning it does in this year of world conflict. Mothers, in addition to their full-time job of loving, are doing the suffering for the boys who do the fighting. Mothers have joined the industrial army to make ships, planes, guns that will give their sons protection and strength.

All blessings to our Mothers.


Short link to this article:


Tags: , , , , , ,

A Legacy of Caring: Nurses’ Key Role in Total Health

posted on April 30, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Classroom at Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing, circa 1960

Deloras Jones graduated from the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing more than 50 years ago, but she vividly remembers the school’s philosophy of scientific training. In a medical profession long beset by gender inequalities, the program was progressive in teaching the female students “the science of medicine … as physicians were,” said Jones.

Among Kaiser Permanente’s many contributions to health care, it’s important to recognize a legacy of support and respect for nurses. One prime example: Deloras Jones’ alma mater. At the end of World War II, when the health plan opened to the public, qualified nurses were in short supply.

To address the shortage, the Kaiser Foundation established the Permanente School of Nursing (later the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing) in 1947 to train more nurses. The accredited school graduated its first class in 1950 and offered tuition-free education and training for its first 7 years. California regulations changed in the 1960s, requiring the school to transition from a diploma program to a degree-granting 4-year college. Efforts to connect with one of the local colleges while maintaining an independent identity were unsuccessful, and the last class graduated in 1976.

Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing logo, 1963

During its existence, the school graduated 1,065 nurses and boasted numerous accomplishments. It trained a diverse pool of highly skilled nurses (it was the first in California to consistently recruit minority students), and student scores in State Board Examinations consistently ranked in the top 3 of all California programs, including university schools. Watch their stories in this short video.

In January, that impressive legacy was documented in an academic article in Nursing Administration Quarterly, “Kaiser’s School of Nursing: A 70-Year Legacy of Disruptive Innovation.”

The article is the fruit of a legacy project that was launched in 2016 to research, capture and record the history and voice of Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing alumni. What emerged from these early nursing pioneers were inspirational stories about their pride of being part of a new way to provide health care that prioritized prevention, health promotion, and wellness over conventional “sick care” models.

KFSN students in capping ceremony (after 6 months of study) walk through Kaiser Oakland hospital, circa 1960

These alumni became Kaiser Permanente’s earliest nurse leaders, educators, and care advocates, advancing new models for integrated patient care. Many graduates pursued advanced degrees and were instrumental in defining expanded nursing roles, including the introduction of nurse practitioners in California.

Kaiser Permanente nurses contributed to make their mark in advancing the field through research, such as the 1999 study “Exploring Indicators of Telephone Nursing Quality” in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. Telephone nursing was an early effort in what we now call “telemedicine,” and the study resulted in important understandings about the effectiveness of technology-mediated care.

The school was an experiment that had run its course, but it had also enriched the Kaiser Permanente philosophy with a respect and value for the nursing profession as an essential component of group-practice medicine. To the world, it demonstrated the enduring importance of Kaiser Permanente’s leadership in disruptive innovation — in particular, the role of the nurse executive — in reimagining care for future generations. It’s a mission that continues to this day.


Short link to this article:




Lost and Found: Photos Tell Stories of World War II

posted on April 24, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Two black workers, “Labor Management,” Kaiser Richmond shipyard #4, 1/4/1944

Original photos of hundreds of U.S. navy ships in San Francisco Bay.  A candid shot of Henry J. Kaiser, laughing while listening to a female accordionist. A color transparency of an unidentified “Rosie” with a cutting torch in front of the ship Haiti Victory before her launch in July 20, 1944.

These are only some of the images from a treasure trove of World War II photographs, many depicting scenes from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards, discovered last year by Fresno professor Dan Nadaner. The photos have not been seen since the mid-1940s.

Dan was donating the pictures to the curators from the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, located on the former site of the Kaiser shipyards. He found these cartons while clearing out a storage locker, and wanted the photos to join others already on display at the visitor center.

The photos were taken by Dan’s father, Hugo Nadaner (1915–2009), a real estate developer, contractor, private airplane pilot, and Hollywood photographer. But during World War II, he turned his lens to marine vessels, working with the U.S. Navy to document construction, launch and shakedown cruises.

Hugo Nadaner’s trove of 4×5-inch negatives and photos include images of hundreds of U.S. navy ships. Many are copy photos (photos of other photos), but others are original shots from San Francisco Bay. Although few are identified, some ships and locations are obvious.

Hugo Nadaner (on right), circa 1940s (photo courtesy Dan Nadaner)

A cluster of photos reveal how neighboring industries prefabricated ship components for final assembly in the Kaiser yards. Among the Oakland subcontractors documented between June 24 and 26, 1943, were the Graham Ship Repair Company (foot of Washington St.), the Herrick Iron Works, and the Independent Iron Works. Other nearby factories included Berkeley’s Trailer Company of America and the Steel Tank & Pipe Company, as well as the California Steel Products Corporation in Richmond and the Pacific Coast Engineering Company in Alameda. One contractor documented was the Clyde W. Wood Company in Stockton (a deepwater port on the San Joaquin River), over 50 miles inland from the Richmond shipyards.

There are many photos from the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. One set shows the launching of the patrol frigate USS Tacoma from shipyard No. 4 on July 7, 1943. These include the happy sponsor, Mrs. A.R. Bergerson, and two young women, ready with a champagne bottle. Another photo catches three white-bloused singers, while a third is of Henry J. Kaiser finishing a celebratory meal — and is he really singing along with an accordion?

Kaiser shipyard workers are frozen in time. One unidentified Journeyman Maintenance Worker is pumping liquid into a battered bucket; a black welder and a black supervisor share a joke while inspecting an electric arc stinger; the tool control crew from Yard 3 shows home-front women in the trades.

Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources is helping the National Park Service to process this collection. Thank you, Dan and Hugo Nadaner, for your contribution to documenting and sharing the World War II home front.

Click on any image below for a larger view.

Short link to this article:


Tags: , , ,

Wasting Nothing: Recycling Then and Now

posted on April 19, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


“Ships From the Scrap Heap” Fore ‘n’ Aft, 1/14/1944

Recycling didn’t start with Earth Day in 1970 — a date that many consider to be the birth date of the modern environmental movement. Reuse of materials has been a practice for many years, especially during shortages of raw materials.

During World War II, the effort to build massive ships also created mountains of industrial trash. And while all resources were prioritized for winning the war against fascism, everyone was encouraged to step up to produce as efficiently as possible. At the Kaiser shipyards, that also meant recycling.

In 1944, the four Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, produced more than 11,000 gross tons of scrap steel and 78,000 pounds of non-ferrous metals, as well as 11,400 paint pails, 2,056 carbide drums, and large quantities of rubber scrap, wire rope reels, scrap burlap, rope, batteries, and battery plates.

Much of the material collected was recycled on site. “The idea is to waste nothing,” a writer explained in the Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper, Fore ‘n’ Aft. “Strongbacks (braces), clips, dogs, wedges, bolts, nuts, and the like are dropped down separate chutes into bins to be reclaimed in the shop.” The article pointed out that at the shipyards’ “Yard Three,” during the previous month, a crew of 137 salvage workers had reclaimed 14,800 feet of pipe, sold 318 tons of scrap pipe-ends, made 254,616 strongbacks and clips, and reclaimed over 176,000 bolts and nuts.

Fast forward to the present and Kaiser Permanente is continuing to stake out ambitious goals for recycling. In fact, the organization aims to recycle, reuse, or compost 100 percent of its non-hazardous waste by 2025.

Then, as now, recycling on a massive scale required hard work. At the wartime shipyards, scrap ferrous metals were collected for sending to steel mills for re-melting, but only about 10 percent were ready to go into the furnaces. The rest had to stop off at preparers for sorting and cleaning. And recycling didn’t stop at the water’s edge. The job of salvage even carried on to the high seas where the ships brought back scrap from the world’s battlefields. Aboard ship, cooking fats and tin cans were saved from the galley; flue dust from the boilers and fire boxes yielded strategic vanadium and lamp black; and sailors were encouraged to save every possible rope-end.

“Scramble and scrape to save scrap to scramble the enemy,” the Fore ‘n’ Aft article ends. “Don’t forget your part as a war worker handling vital materials is a big one. Make everything count so you can make more things that count. Try to imagine a price tag on every piece of scrap.”

Creating healthy communities by preserving natural resources — good advice then and now.


Short link to this article:

Harold Hatch, Health Insurance Visionary

posted on April 12, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Harold Hatch of Industrial Indemnity Insurance with secretary Bess Girgitch, circa 1940

Insurance visionary? These two words don’t often go together.

Harold Albert Hatch was the exception: He was an insurance agent who had a bright idea that helped change the course of American health care. He did this when he suggested an unorthodox reimbursement approach to a young physician, Sidney Garfield, sometime in 1934 — prepayment.

This novel approach to industrial health insurance kept Dr. Garfield’s practice afloat, and survives as one of the fundamental components of the Kaiser Permanente health plan. It inverts the conventional model of medical economics, favoring prevention over treatment.

Industrial Indemnity Exchange logo

Prepayment for health care was not a completely new concept — the Ross-Loos Medical Group adopted it in 1929 to cover 12,000 employees and their families in the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power. But the practice for on-the-job care was novel.

Dr. Garfield and his partner Dr. Gene Morris ran a clinic in Southern California’s remote Mojave Desert for the workers on the Colorado River Aqueduct Project. It was standard industrial medical care, which was voluntary for California employers beginning in 1911 (and mandatory in 1914) to keep employees healthy and on the job. Industrial Indemnity was the largest insurer on that project.

The process was straightforward: A worker gets hurt on the job, sees the doctor, and the doctor gets insurance reimbursement. Workers’ compensation insurance worked — until it didn’t.

The issue for Dr. Garfield was that insurance companies challenged full reimbursement for bills and were slow to pay those they accepted. Dr. Garfield also handled medical care not covered by the insurance, and the workers couldn’t afford to pay much.

Nurse Betty Runyen (in car), with Dr. Sidney Garfield, at Contractors General Hospital, circa 1934

Confronted with the lag in reimbursement for care, Dr. Garfield was at risk of losing his practice, and the workers were at risk of losing the local health care they liked. Dr. Morris packed his medical bag and left.

Here’s how Hatch came in to help. Industrial Indemnity Exchange began when several major contractors (including Henry J. Kaiser and Warren Bechtel) banded together to self-insure their industrial health care in 1921. By the end of 1942, Industrial Indemnity would grow to be California’s second-largest writer of compensation insurance. Henry Kaiser’s right-hand man, Alonzo B. Ordway, was tasked with running it, and in 1934, they hired Hatch as underwriter and policy strategist. Hatch had been an engineer who as a child had been partially physically impaired by tuberculosis of the bone.

Hatch befriended Dr. Garfield, and proposed the novel insurance idea — paying 17.5 percent of its workers’ compensation premium back to Dr. Garfield to care for job-related injuries. That was 5 cents a day guaranteed income from each worker. Dr. Garfield accepted. The two men then completed the prepayment equation by adding a voluntary nonindustrial health plan for the workers for another 5 cents a day.

Newspaper account of Harold Hatch fending off a carjacking, 1958

With Dr. Garfield’s practice financially viable, he hired more physicians and built temporary hospitals along the aqueduct’s route. When the construction project ended, Hatch and Ordway recommended Dr. Garfield as the perfect candidate to care for workers at the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington. There, from 1938-1940, Dr. Garfield expanded his model to include a prepaid plan for worker families as well.

Hatch continued to consult with Kaiser and Dr. Garfield until 1948, when he founded the Argonaut Insurance company, which by the time of his death in 1962 was the second largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance in California.

Thank you, Harold Hatch, for your pioneering role in the evolution of health care insurance.


Short link to this article:




Tags: , ,

Classic Cars: The Mustang That Got Away

posted on April 4, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Ad for Henry J. car, circa 1950

When Henry J. Kaiser and Kaiser–Frazer Motors released their entry-level passenger car in 1950, its name was the subject of a national contest that raised money for cancer research. The winner? “Henry J.”

But historical interpretation is full of “what ifs,” and recent research has turned up a startling alternate set of names for this humble little car that took on the Big Three automakers. An interoffice memo from Edgar F. Kaiser, Henry’s oldest son, to his father and Gene Trefethen — a lifelong Kaiser right-hand-man and corporate executive — reveals a charming detail of this high-stakes branding challenge.

Henry Kaiser partnered with industry expert Joseph “Joe” Frazer in this automobile venture, and Joe knew a thing or two about sales. While the naming contest was going full bore, Edgar and Joe were trying to make sure that whatever name was selected would have some traction.

Almost two months before the announcement of the winning name, Edgar spent several hours with Joe Frazer reviewing the 2,500 names at the top of the list.

Joe’s preference for first choice?


Edgar goes on to tell his father, “At the moment I favor calling the car ‘Kaiser Mustang’ but I am not sure that it will last with me.”

What ifs.


Short link to this article:


5 Physicians Who Made a Difference

posted on March 26, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


In honor of National Physicians Week we are sharing profiles of 5 outstanding doctors who advanced the practice of medical care with their service at Kaiser Permanente.


Dr. Sidney Garfield at Contractors General Hospital, 1935

Sidney R. Garfield, MD (1906–1984)

Dr. Garfield is Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician. As a surgeon, he first applied the principles of prepaid group medical practice while providing health care for construction workers on the Colorado River Aqueduct in California’s Mojave Desert in 1933.  In 1938, Henry J. Kaiser and his son Edgar invited him to organize a similar program for construction workers and their families at Grand Coulee Dam in Washington. During World War II, Dr. Garfield developed a medical care program for hundreds of thousands of workers and family members at Kaiser shipyards in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Portland/Vancouver area, as well as at the Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, California. Historians have noted that one of the century’s major social contributions was the role of Dr. Garfield and Henry Kaiser in co-founding Kaiser Permanente and launching employer-sponsored health care in the United States.


Dr. Hickman at Oakland Kaiser Permanente, circa 1970

Eugene Hickman, MD (1921–2013)

Dr. Hickman was the first African-American physician to join The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California. Dr. Hickman graduated from Nashville’s Meharry Medical School (the second-oldest medical school for African-Americans in the nation) in 1949, then practiced as a radiologist at several Los Angeles facilities — the City Health Department, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the Veterans Administration hospital — before coming to Kaiser Permanente. He had a long career at the Oakland Kaiser Permanente Hospital, becoming president of the hospital staff and later chief of the department of radiology. He ended his 30-year tenure in 1989.


Dr. Beatrice Lei with patient, 1947

Beatrice Lei, MD (1910–2002)

Dr. Lei, a Chinese immigrant, was one of the 16 physicians recruited by Dr. Garfield in 1944–45 to serve the health care needs of the World War II Kaiser Richmond shipyard workers. She helped transition the health care program into the postwar era and became the first female and first Asian physician accepted as a partner in The Permanente Medical Group in 1948. Dr. Lei served as chief of pediatrics at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Field Hospital from 1946 to 1966, and continued practicing there until she retired in 1975. Frederic Geier, MD, who was physician-in-chief at Richmond Medical Center during her tenure, said, “Dr. Lei has always been one of the most popular pediatricians here. She has a wonderful rapport with children and their parents.”


Dr. Morris Collen, cover of Modern Medicine, 1968

Morris Collen, MD (1913–2014)

Dr. Garfield recruited Dr. Collen to be chief of medicine for the industrial health care program for workers in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards in July 1942. Over the course of his career at Kaiser Permanente, Dr. Collen saved lives by pioneering the treatment of pneumonia with penicillin, by applying efficient medical diagnostic processes to hard-working longshoremen, and by using then-new mainframe computers to automate the analysis of the “multiphasic examinations” he’d helped develop for incoming health plan members. He is considered one of the founders of the field of medical informatics.


Dr. Philip Tong Chu

Philip Tong Chu, MD (1918–1970)

Hawaii-born Dr. Chu was the first Hawaii Permanente Medical Group director from 1960 to 1970. He was a respected surgeon and visionary leader who was praised for his abiding respect for Hawaii’s cultural diversity. He earned his medical degree from Pennsylvania Medical School of St. John’s University in Shanghai, China, in 1944. As part of the World War II reconstruction, Dr. Chu was regional medical officer for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, China Division. After surgical residency at several U.S. hospitals, he served at the U.S. Public Health Service Indian Hospital at Sacaton, Arizona, and later served in Detroit. He spent the remainder of his life in Hawaii, working as a doctor and administrator.


Short link to this article:




Birth of a Hospital

posted on March 21, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Click to play video – Henry J. Kaiser and Dr. Sidney Garfield inspecting new San Francisco Permanente Foundation Hospital

It was a labor of love.

And the “baby” was a short silent film about the building and opening of a flagship hospital in San Francisco, shot by one of Kaiser Permanente’s early pediatricians, John “Jack” Smillie, in the early 1950s.

This was a period when Kaiser Permanente was building several state-of-the-art hospitals in California. In addition to huge member growth, the fact that the medical establishment routinely denied Permanente physicians hospital privileges pushed Henry J. Kaiser to go out and build his own.

The San Francisco facility was built on the city block bounded by Geary Boulevard, O’Farrell Street, Lyon Street, and St Joseph Avenue. The Berkeley Daily Gazette gushed about this $3 million hospital “incorporating advances in design and equipment that are expected to influence future hospital planning.” It was Kaiser Permanente’s 16th medical facility, with “ultramodern” features, including “vast amount of glass in its exterior and interior construction, separate corridors for hospital personnel and the public, decentralized nurses’ stations, hotel-type floors for convalescents, self-service devices for patients and a private nursery plan.”

Dr. John Smillie in top hat and tails with wife and daughter, breaking ground for new SF hospital, 1952.

An amateur photographer, Dr. Smillie shot this 16mm footage of the 7-story, 225-bed hospital between 1952 and 1955. It includes an homage to the earlier San Francisco facilities that served well when the health plan was opened to the public in 1945 — the leased Harbor Hospital at 331 Pennsylvania Avenue, the clinic at 515 Market Street — as well as the Oakland hospital and medical offices across the bay. It featured the hospital groundbreaking on April 27, 1952, and an initial move-in day of September 1, 1953, before the construction was even finished.

Dr. Smillie (1917–2002) was the first full-time pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center, where he practiced from 1949 to 1977. He served as chief of pediatrics from 1954 to 1961, assistant physician-in-chief from 1957 to 1961, and physician-in-chief from 1961 to 1971.

Dr. Smillie noted in a 1987 oral history, “I knew San Francisco would grow and become a major medical center of the Program, and I had hoped to build up a pediatrics staff of about 10 pediatricians, and start a residency training program in pediatrics, and train young doctors to be good pediatricians.” He wryly lamented that by 1960, “I was still a very young doctor . . . [and] I had already achieved what I’d set out to do in the first place.”


Short link to this article:



Henry J. Kaiser and the New Economics of Medical Care

posted on March 13, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Funding for hospital construction may seem like a dry subject.  But it’s vital if you live in a community that doesn’t have adequate facilities for health care.  And that was the situation after the Great Depression and World War II, when hospital construction virtually stopped. In this stirring speech before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. in 1954, Henry J. Kaiser appealed to the information influencers to promote passage of legislation for building more hospitals. In it, he uttered this bold challenge:

If we can build ships, and planes, and tanks, and guns, and bullets to protect our national security, can we not build hospitals, and clinics to protect the lives of our people?

This podcast explores many of the same themes as this one by Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney Garfield, MD: the challenges of providing affordable, quality health care to a population that was new to the concept of a health plan. In this speech, Henry Kaiser artfully engages his audience by pointing out the economic similarities between prepaid health care and print journalism:

Your services are paid for monthly by the subscribers of the thousands of newspapers all over the country.  You offer comprehensive news coverage on a monthly payment basis. We do have that in common.

Health care for the people, a challenge in 1954 as it is today.


Short link to this blog and podcast:

Tags: , ,

Slacks, Not Slackers – Women’s Role in Winning World War II

posted on March 8, 2018

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

Gladys Theus, welder in Kaiser Richmond shipyard #2 who won “fastest welder” contest, 10/15/1944. Photo by E.F. Joseph; courtesy Careth Reid collection.

March 8 – International Women’s Day.

Women played a vital role in the World War II home front. But advancements in workplace equality didn’t come easily. Women faced significant hurdles at the start, and then had to struggle for recognition afterward. Still, women who worked in the Kaiser shipyards helped lay the groundwork for a new era that included, among other advances, greater employment opportunities and child care options.

Breaking Down Employment Barriers

Women were initially excluded from membership in the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America, the largest union in the WWII shipyards and a gateway to employment there. So, on September 8, 1942, women welders and burners, representing hundreds barred from war production jobs in the new Marinship Corporation shipyards at Sausalito, stormed Boilermakers Local No. 6 offices in San Francisco, demanding the right to work. These white women were the first excluded group to win full admission to the Boilermakers Union.

The impact of women going into previously male-dominated occupations was the subject of heated public discussion. Just as they had during World War I, women in industry raised eyebrows as they donned trousers, overalls, and the more modern equivalent – slacks.

As National Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin points out, black women would later be allowed work, but only through a second-tier level of the union, and after black men had gotten jobs.

Medical checkup at Kaiser Oregonship child development center, circa 1944

First Steps for Child Care

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Kaiser Company shipyard on the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, on April 5, 1943 to personally launch the new aircraft carrier U.S.S. Casablanca. But Eleanor was more interested in the social programs affiliated with the massive shipbuilding projects, including child care, prepared meals for double-duty women, and health care.

President Roosevelt, at Eleanor’s suggestion, had supported the first government-sponsored child care center in the summer of 1942 under the Lanham Act. But this was private industry. Henry J. Kaiser listened to her and responded by introducing two controversial (at the time) programs for shipyard workers – model child care facilities near two of the shipyards and pre-cooked meals for working moms. These centers at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, and Portland, Oregon, yielded valuable research results that helped fuel the study of early childhood education for decades after the war.

International Women’s Day – a  time to reflect, a time to plan.


Short link to this article: