Friday, March 4, 2011

The MGH, McLean and public officials renew charter at the State House

Bird's eye view: The Senate Chamber of the State House during the Charter Renewal Ceremony

The venerable Massachusetts State House, designed by the same Charles Bulfinch who designed the MGH Bulfinch Building, has been the meeting place of leaders, decision-makers, and other influential men and women with compassion, intelligence and vision since 1798. On Feb. 25, 1811, the Massachusetts Legislature at the State House voted to formally establish a hospital to care for the “sick and poor” of Boston, as was outlined in the Circular Letter written by Drs. John Collins Warren and James Jackson. With the signing of “An act to incorporate certain persons by the name of Massachusetts General Hospital,” the MGH and its partner institution, McLean Hospital, officially were established.

To mark this milestone anniversary, MGH trustees, leadership, and former and current chiefs joined with those from McLean, Partners HealthCare and the state government at the place where it all began for a ceremonial re-signing of the charter. Presiding over the event – which took place in the Senate Chamber, the very same room where the original document was signed 200 years ago – was Senate President Therese Murray. Joining her were Sens. Sal DiDomenico, Jamie Eldridge, Anthony Petruccelli, Steven Tolman and Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad.

The ceremony began with 19th-century-attired fife and drum players leading a procession of special guests into the chamber. Following the sergeant-at-arms of the Massachusetts Legislature were Peter L. Slavin, MD, 
MGH president, and Scott L. Rauch, MD, McLean Hospital president, who took ceremonial seats alongside Murray and Haddad. Other special guests included Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, 
and Jack Connors Jr., chairman of the Partners Board of Trustees.

With a pound of the gavel, Murray launched the event, introducing the MGH Bicentennial Scholars, who led the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Fred Furnari, RN, of McLean, sang a rousing rendition of the national an-them, and Michael McElhinny, MDiv, director of the MGH Chaplaincy, provided the invocation. Guests at the event then were treated 
to a special visit from an actor impersonating former U.S. President John Adams, who was an original MGH Corporation member and moderator of the group’s first meeting.

Slavin, Rauch and Haddad each provided remarks. Slavin recognized several descendents of the Warren and Jackson families who were present at the event: Shaw Warren Jr., MD, of the MGH Pediatric Infectious Disease Unit, and his daughter Cellestine; and Mary Eliot Jackson, a certified nurse-midwife. Slavin went on to explain that, while the MGH charter was signed in 1811, the hospital did not receive its first patient until ten years later.

“The War of 1812 and other obstacles delayed the best-laid plans of the dedicated founders and the MGH Board of Corporators, who nevertheless continued to meet regularly to create a framework and structure for the hospital to come,” he said.

Both Slavin and Rauch reaffirmed their institutions’ commitment to excellence 
in patient care, education, research and the local and global communities.

“The vision of Dr. Warren and Dr. Jackson 200 years ago perseveres today,” said Slavin. “The knowledge base, the tools, the treatments and technology have changed dramatically in two centuries, but the commitment to help, heal and offer hope to those in need endures.”

Murray then presented the hospitals with a joint resolution that had been passed by the State Senate and House the day before and signed a symbolic renewed version of the hospital charter. She concluded the ceremony by sharing that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino had issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 25, 2011, as Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital Day in the City of Boston.

The ceremony can be watched on the in-house channel 45, and 
Slavin’s remarks are available at

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