Shriners Hospital, Sacramento

by John Loofbourow, MD

From the top floor of Sacramento's Shriners Hospital, one looks out at just the right angle over an endless sea of trees, where the downtown is just a convoy of concrete and glass ships in the distance. I first heard of the new hospital a few years ago when Jim Naify was putting together the property for the site. He predicted a great institution was to be built, but I wondered:

"Isn't the medical battlefield already littered with dead and dying hospitals? Is this just one more, which may help the UCD School of Medicine, but will escalate casualties elsewhere?" In the vernacular of the day, "Not!" Among 22 Shriner hospitals, this elegant 300,000 sq ft facility is the newest, replacing and expanding the San Francisco facility. This is the only Shriners Hospital providing all four free Shriner services for children: Orthopedic and orthotics, Spinal cord injury care, Burn treatment, and Research oriented to these serious medical conditions. For Sacramento, for our medical community, and for many unfortunate children, it seems clear that the arrival of the Shriners is a win/win event rather than a zero sum game.

"Shriners Hospitals is the official philanthropy for the Ancient Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine," so states Catherine Curran, Public Relations spokeswoman for the hospital. The Ancient What? Some 600,000 Shriners in North America, whose purpose is said to be fun and philanthropy, have raised more than 4 billion dollars to build and operate 18 orthopedic hospitals and three Shriners Burn Institutes (Boston, Cincinnati, Galveston), as well as Sacramento, their newest and most full service facility.

All Shriners are 32 degree Masons in the Scottish Rite, or Knights Templar Masons in the York Rite. While the Masonic fraternity is a mystery to me, as no doubt it is intended to be, it is clear that the people in funny hats, clown suits, or little cars merit our respect and gratitude for what they have done, and are doing.

A simple listing of careers related to medical care would fill hundreds of pages of fine print. While we may all be professionals, some refer to us as employees in the medical industry or business; and to many of us who are physicians, nurses, and technicians, employees may now seem a more accurate designator. That which is called change or growth feels like contraction, as we struggle to adapt.

More than ever medical people work in a web of interdependency among ourselves, and between our patients and ourselves; and also between ourselves and society, because an optimal medical outcome often requires societal contributions. For physicians and other professionals that translates to a loss of independence or control. For individuals and for society, this change requires the often unwelcome assumption of greater responsibility. The stormy passage of medicine from what it was to what it is becoming, is not easy for any of us.Yet it seems inevitable. It seems to me that the organization, funding, and operation of the Shriners Hospital is a welcome beacon in a dark gale of change.

This issue of Sacramento Medicine, focused on careers in medicine, provides a platform from which to welcome a new medical activity to Sacramento; one which both offers a wide range of medical opportunity, and which promises that healthy interaction can take place between a remarkable charitable institution and a community of academic and practicing medical professionals. Our author-contributors, who are associated with the Shriners Hospital, will outline the diversity of people and services to be found in their several areas of competence, and provide information about eligibility, access, and interaction with the Shriners Hospital staff.