Ruth Rothstein, a nationally recognized health-care activist who worked her way up from entry level jobs to become the chief executive officer of major health organizations in Chicago, will receive a Doctor of Social Justice degree, honoris causa at Roosevelt University’s May 3 Commencement ceremony.
“Ruth Rothstein has dedicated her life to helping others and has made health care facilities and services available to thousands of residents in disadvantaged communities,” said Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton. “She is the embodiment of this University’s commitment to social justice and we are honored to present her with an honorary degree.”
Rothstein’s devotion to helping others began in Brooklyn at the age of 11 when she accompanied her father to union meetings and socialist demonstrations. As a union organizer, she participated in pickets, organized women factory workers and documented cases of corporate racial and sexual discrimination. She came to Chicago in 1950 at the age of 27 and advocated for unions such as United Packinghouse Workers of America and United Electrical Workers. From 1952 until 1966, she worked at Jackson Hospital in Chicago as a laboratory technician and personnel director.
In 1966, when Mt. Sinai Hospital was looking to establish a clinic, Rothstein convinced the CEO to hire her, even though she didn’t have a college degree and the hospital originally only wanted to hire a male. She was soon promoted to increasingly demanding positions and in 1977 became President and Chief Executive Officer and its first female president. Under her leadership, Mt. Sinai transitioned from a Jewish hospital increasingly isolated from the growing African-American and Hispanic neighborhood surrounding it to become an integral part of the West Side. Some of her many accomplishments included changing employment practices so that local people were more frequently hired by the hospital, establishing partnerships with public housing and developing a clinic system.
After Mt. Sinai, she led the Schwab Rehabilitation Center and Cook County Hospital and then was named chief executive of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services, the third largest public health system in the nation. In that position, she resuscitated the main hospital and established 30 neighborhood outpatient clinics. She also developed the CORE Center whose mission is to provide the highest quality care for persons and families affected by infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
In recognition of her leadership skills and commitment to meeting the needs of the disadvantaged, the medical facility was renamed the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center. Active throughout her career in civic affairs, Rothstein has voluntarily served on many important governing boards or advisory committees, including those for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, National Association of Public Hospitals and the American Hospital Association.
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