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National Jewish Health es número uno
Photo courtesy: Denver Public Schools

By James Mejía

For the 16th time, National Jewish Health has been named the best respiratory hospital in the country. As the only hospital in the U.S. to have respiratory illness and pulmonary disease as its prime focus, National Jewish has been ranked in either the top or second position for all 21 years of the U.S. News and World Report ‘Best Hospitals’ edition. National Jewish has also been ranked by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems as among the top 1 percent of all U.S. hospitals.

After receiving the award, President and CEO, Michael Salem issued a press release saying, “We are proud to be recognized as the leading respiratory hospital in the nation. The U.S. News ranking is one of many measures, including patient satisfaction surveys, research grants, publications and many others, which place us at the forefront of respiratory care and research.”

In his website message, Salem continues, “Patients come from around the world to seek our expertise and receive the highest quality personalized attention and care… We provide the comprehensive education and care that our patients need.”

Salem refers to a few of the areas where National Jewish stands out, “We also integrate our research and clinical efforts at the point of the patient, so that patients have access to the latest medical advances and great discoveries made in not only our labs but also others around the world. It is the philosophy of National Jewish Health to take these discoveries and integrate them into our programs to deliver the very best in preventive and personalized medicine.”

One example of innovative research being conducted by National Jewish Hospital is the Marijuana Users Health Cohort designed to study and monitor the long-term impact of cannabis use. Dr. Russell Bowler is currently recruiting regular users to submit health diagnostics including an electrocardiogram, blood and urine samples, sleep and walk tests. Users between the ages of 21 and 80 are invited to participate. There is some compensation for becoming a test subject.

Another example of ongoing research is a clinical trial with current smokers aged 55-77 to help improve diagnosis and treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Though a specialty, National Jewish research is not limited to lung and respiratory illness. Other clinical research includes studies on skin disease, cystic fibrosis, and insomnia.

Besides treating patients from around the globe, National Jewish hosts foreign national doctors for education programs and research in respiratory, cardiac, and immune related conditions.

Serving the Latino Community

In their annual health report, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) points to chronic respiratory disease as the seventh leading cause of death for Latinos. This is especially true of foreign born Latinos more likely to work in difficult circumstances including agriculture, mining and construction where air born dust, chemicals and contaminants are more prevalent.

At least some of these diseases are avoidable and National Jewish Hospital has designed systems to prevent their occurrence including weight loss and smoking cessation programs. According to the CDC report, “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. It is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lung and other types of cancers, and chronic lung diseases.” US residents with no high school diploma are four times as likely than those with at least a bachelor’s degree to smoke. NJH urges education and risk awareness to diminish disease risk factors like smoking.

As a non-profit institution, National Jewish Health has been able to obtain critical funding allowing programming for patients requiring special treatment and attention. With a $15 million gift in 2013 from John and Carrie Morgridge and the Morgridge Family Foundation, NJH operates a free K-12 school serving students with conditions requiring medical care throughout the day and prohibiting them from attending regular schools. A majority of students suffer from asthma or other respiratory illness. The school serves 90 students from mostly low-income backgrounds. Morgridge Academy is the only school of its kind in the country and features arts, special education, and physical education alongside the basic curriculum. Numerous African American and Latino children have been served by the school.

Partner Institutions

National Jewish affiliates with the University of Colorado Hospital for its academic work which has earned them national accolades. NJH is an accredited teaching affiliate of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. NJH partners with the Rocky Mountain Pediatric Respiratory and Allergy Care center. Lesser known is their work other health non-profit networks working in underserved communities. According to National Jewish spokesperson, William Allstetter, National Jewish partners with Salud Family Health Centers that have twelve centers serving low-income populations with a focus on migrant and seasonal farmworker populations. 

National Jewish Hospital also works with the Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN) health clinics who serve the medically indigent communities throughout metropolitan Denver. According to Allstetter, NJH has worked with MCPN, “in recent years on some research projects about diagnosing and managing asthma and weight management.”

About National Jewish Health

Founded in 1899 as a nonprofit hospital, National Jewish has always been a non-sectarian institution. The hospital was founded to combat tuberculosis, a leading cause of disease and death in the country at the time. Today, NJH boasts the biggest pulmonary staff in the country. NJH serves patients through 25 Colorado locations including several throughout the Denver metropolitan area but also in Aspen and the Vail Valley. Services extending outside Colorado include New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, and Philadelphia’s National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute.

NJH employs just over 1,730 and in 2015, served over 132,000 patients. In 2016, patients came from all 50 states and generated revenue in excess of $145 million. Research grant revenue added $47 million to the budget and the hospital raised nearly $30 million in private donations. Their main campus is located in Denver between Colfax and 14th Avenues and Colorado Boulevard.

The hospital is organized into five divisions: Pediatrics, Academics, Biomedical Research, Radiology, and Medicine. For more information, please see or call 877-CALL-NJH.





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