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Photo of male patient sitting up as doctor, assisted by nurse, examines him
Seaview Hospital
December 1961 Collection of NYC Municipal Archives | dpc_2519

Searching for a Cure

Already a leading institution for the treatment of tuberculosis, Seaview rose to further prominence when from 1951 to 1952 Drs. Edward Robitzek and Irving J. Selikoff conducted clinical trials of a breakthrough drug in the treatment of tuberculosis there . Working with Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Robitzek and Selikoff investigated whether a compound called isoniazid could prevent the growth of tuberculosis bacteria in terminally ill patients for whom no other treatments had worked. The nursing staff at Seaview helped conduct the trial: administering treatments, observing patients, and reporting results to the doctors in charge. The trials’ results were a cause for celebration. The treatments resulted in the alleviation of the patients’ symptoms and stopped the growth of bacteria in their lungs. Patients, who months before had been condemned to spend their remaining years in hospital wards, were being discharged having been cured of infection. Others whose active infection had prevented surgery to repair their damaged lungs were now eligible for the procedures.

Virginia Allen Audio Stop 4: “I Was So Young”

Photo of a boy standing between children on cots holding a snake
Sea View Hospital Children's Halloween Party
1952 Collection of NYC Municipal Archives | dpc_2526
Four portrait photographs of the awardees
1955 Lasker Award Winners
(Clockwise from Upper left: Robitzek, Selikoff, Muschenheim, McDermott) Collection of the Lasker Foundation

Drs. Edward Robitzek, Irving Selikoff, Walsh McDermott and Carl Muschenheim (the latter two having conducted a smaller, simultaneous trial of isoniazid at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center with Hoffman – La Roche Research Laboratories) received the prestigious Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 1955. “The discovery, now considered universally to be of the first order,” said the award committee, “has influenced the principles of treatment and control of tuberculosis profoundly. This contribution of the investigators distinguishes them as true scientists and humanitarians.” Isoniazid ushered in a new era of tuberculosis treatment and is still used today. Ten years after the clinical trials began at Seaview, the Tuberculosis Hospital closed and the site shifted its focus to elder care. Today, the facility remains a part of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and serves as a nursing home and rehabilitation center.

Virginia Allen Audio Stop 5: A Joyous Occasion