Edie Brous
Nurse Attorney
118 East 28th Street
Room 404
New York, NY 10016
Tel. (212) 989-5469
Fax. (646) 349-5355

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“The impressions of childhood are never obliterated.”
Frances Xavier Cabrini (“Mother Cabrini”)
The last hospital I worked in, Cabrini Medical Center, closed in 2008.  It broke my heart.  Cabrini did not have the high-tech panache of a large medical center. It was not a tertiary referral center. It did not have many of the assets of a competitive specialty hospital. What it did have, was human decency.  I had worked in 10 different states and about 37 different hospitals but of all the places I ever worked as a nurse, Cabrini was as close as it came to Norman Rockwell General. We called the hospital, “The Mother.” Originally opened as Columbus Hospital, Sister Frances Cabrini founded the hospital in 1892 as part of her mission to care for Italian immigrants.
Mother Cabrini understood the pain and fear immigrants feel in this country – especially when seeking health care. I am sure she would be inconsolably distressed to see what has happened to health care, and what is happening to immigrants today.
Today’s health care system is a business, not a human service.  It is all about profit, not caring. This country has become progressively more inhumane in its treatment of “illegals.” Detention centers separate children from their parents.  The trauma of psychosocial stressors leaves permanent scars. Immigrants and refugees are hesitant to seek necessary health care out of fear of deportation and providers are poorly educated to understand and empathize with their experience. This creates public health implications, as well as humanitarian concerns.
We have lost our ability to demonstrate kindness in the face of human suffering. It was the defining mission of Cabrini to treat all patients with dignity and respect, regardless of their circumstances.  The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus vigorously oversaw operations to see that this mission was never lost.  And, despite modernization and increasing technology, it never was. For 116 years, the Sisters reminded us that competent clinical practice, regulatory compliance, and modernization are important. But it is compassion that matters.
That compassion is why Mother Cabrini became the first U.S. citizen to be canonized. An immigrant herself, she was elevated to sainthood in 1946. Today, 19th Street was co-named Mother Cabrini Way and many of Cabrini’s former employees were there to celebrate with the Missionary Sisters. It was bittersweet for me.
The doors to The Mother were closed and the lights went dark in 2008. But I hope the light in its people burns forever. At the unveiling today, an elderly woman offered to give her seat to another elderly woman who was standing next to me. One of the Missionary Sisters overheard me make a comment that her offer was very nice and said to me, “It’s the Cabrini way.”  And indeed, it was. I hope Mother Cabrini’s legacy extends far past the naming of a street.  Because oh, how I miss that.
Additional Reading
Dr. Salim Ahmed et al. (2017) Experiences of Communication Barriers Between Physicians and Immigrant Patients: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis, Patient Experience Journal, Vol. 4, Issue 1, Article 13, retrieved from http://pxjournal.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1181&context=journal
American Medical Association (2017) AMA Adopts New Policies to Improve Health of Immigrants and Refugees, AMA, June 12, 2017, retrieved from https://www.ama-assn.org/ama-adopts-new-policies-improve-health-immigrants-and-refugees
Erin Durkin (2016) City Public Hospitals Promise to Keep Immigrant Information Under Wraps, New York Daily News, December 21, 2016, retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-public-hospitals-immigrant-patient-info-private-article-1.2919311
Sara Heath (2017) Cultural Barriers Limit Immigrant Patient-Provider Interactions, Patient Satisfaction News, July 19, 2017, retrieved from https://patientengagementhit.com/news/cultural-barriers-limit-immigrant-patient-provider-interactions
Dr. Jonathan Ariel Kirsten and Pamela Boneparth (2017) Exacerbation of Psychiatric Symptoms of Undocumented Immigrant Patients Under a New Administration, Psychiatric Services, Vol. 68, Issue 8, August 1, 2017, retrieved from http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201700132
Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead (2015) Patron Saint of Immigrants: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, The Catholic Sun, November 24, 2015, retrieved from http://www.catholicsun.org/2015/11/24/patron-saint-of-immigrants-st-frances-xavier-cabrini/
Dr. Elizabeth Poorman (2017) Caring for Immigrant Patients When the Rules Can Shift Any Time, CommonHealth, February 21. 2017, retrieved from
Swetlitz, Ike (2017) Immigrants, Fearing Trump’s Deportation Policies, Avoid Doctor Visits, STAT, February 24, 2017, retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2017/02/24/immigrants-doctors-medical-care/
Bar Admissions:
  • New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
  • Southern and Eastern Districts New York Federal Courts
  • United States Supreme Court
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Copyright © 2017, Edie Brous, RN, Esq.