Friday, August 27, 2010

Circular Letter bicentennial

Founding father descendants: Back row, from left, Shaw and Caleb Warren. Front row, from left, Mary Eliot and Rebecca Jackson; Hannah Jackson Parker; and Chloe Warren

On Aug. 20, 1810, Drs. James Jackson and John Collins Warren penned a petition calling for the support of efforts to establish a hospital in Boston. Two hundred years later, on Aug. 20, 2010, six descendants of these men and hundreds of MGH employees gathered on the Bulfinch Lawn to mark the bicentennial of this significant event in the history of the hospital and the city.

Those in attendance heard the words of that famous petition -- known as the Circular Letter -- read aloud by Tyrone Latin of MGH Development. Latin’s role as development director for the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) is closely aligned with the purpose of the Circular Letter, which called for funds to establish a hospital for the poor and disenfranchised and described the lack of such resources in the community.

"This passionate call to action was the first tangible step on the path to what would become Massachusetts General Hospital," said Alasdair Conn, MD, chief of Emergency Services, at the event. "The Circular Letter rallied the Boston community and demonstrated the can-do spirit that was so prevalent in this progressive new city that was part of our young nation."

Following the reading of the letter, Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president, discussed how the founders' vision remains embedded in the fabric of the institution. He recognized recipients of the Excellence in Action Award, which honors employees for exceptional service, as examples of the MGH’s continuing commitment to its patients. He also acknowledged students from the MGH CCHI Summer Jobs program who were in attendance, saying they represent the future of the hospital.

The Jackson and Warren descendants and all MGH employees were then invited to reaffirm the hospital's commitment to the community by signing commemorative posters displayed on the Bulfinch Lawn. The posters included the hospital's mission and the well-known phrase from the Circular Letter, "When in distress every man becomes our neighbor."

The descendants who signed the posters were Mary Eliot Jackson, CNM, and Rebecca Jackson, MD, great-great-great granddaughters of Jackson; Hannah Jackson Parker, MD, great-great- great-great granddaughter of Jackson; Shaw Warren, MD, great-great- great grandson of Warren; and his children Caleb and Chloe. Shaw Warren is a physician in the MGH Pediatric Infectious Disease Unit, and his son Caleb has been interning at the hospital this summer.

"It's terrific to be a part of such a great tradition of service and excellence in health care in this community," said Jackson Parker, an obstetrician and gynecologist, who completed her residency at the MGH.


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