Is the Sanitarium Obsolete?

In the 1880's, when the new medical institution at Battle Creek, Michigan was about to open, John Harvey Kellogg sent out brochures describing its advantages. The changes proposed by John Harvey Kellogg actually added a new word to the English language. . .

In the 1880's, when the new medical institution at Battle Creek, Michigan was about to open, John Harvey Kellogg sent out brochures describing its advantages. The changes proposed by John Harvey Kellogg actually added a new word to the English language. When Dr. Kellogg prepared literature for the institution in the early 1880's, the name was printed as "Battle Creek Sanitarium." Soon letters began to arrive pointing out that evidently an error had been made, for while the word sanatorium could be found in the dictionary, sanitarium could not. Unabashed, the doctor replied that it would quickly find its way into the dictionary, and it did. "The new policies demanded a new name," 1 Dr. Kellogg wrote. "The word 'sanatorium' was then defined by Webster's dictionary as a term used in England to designate a health resort for invalid soldiers. A change of two letters transformed 'sanatorium' into 'sanitarium.' " 2

The current Dorland's Medical Dictionary, 24th edition, 1965, defines sanitarium as:

An institution for the promotion of health. The word was originally coined [it goes on to say] to designate the institution established by the Seventh-day Adventists at Battle Creek, Michigan, to distinguish it from institutions providing care for mental or tuberculous patients.

The word, however, is being gradually discarded by our denominational culture. The Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital in California is now the Glendale Adventist Hospital; the New England Sanitarium and Hospital (Massachusetts) is now the New England Memorial Hospital; the Portland (Oregon) Sanitarium and Hospital is now Portland Adventist Hospital. Others, such as our own hospital in Brunswick, Maine, have dropped the word out of the name. We are now the Parkview Memorial Hospital.

Does this change signify subtle apostasy with the passing of an era and abdication of certain basic principles, the changing of emphasis, or just modernization to meet modern needs?

First, I think it is well to realize that the name sanitarium was not inspired. The word originated with Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the material quoted from Mr. Powell above has been verified through the White Estate at Washington, D.C.S The "San" connoted certain concepts to the Seventh-day Adventists and patrons of the late 1890's and early 1900's. But then, medicine of that day was as different from medicine of today as the horse and buggy transportation of that day differs from jet transportation of today. A horse and buggy went ten miles an hour on dirt roads, while jet liners travel 5,000-6,000 miles an hour through the stratosphere. However, both are dependent on the wheel principle. The wheel is far from obsolete, although its appearance and what it carries have radically changed. To say that medicine has radically changed does not mean necessarily that certain basic principles have be come obsolete.

A Review of Basic Principles

Now let us review some of these basic principles that were to characterize a Seventh-day Adventist medical institution of the 1890's to see whether they have be come obsolete. Probably the most concise and succinct summary of these principles is found in Testimonies, volume 6, pages 219-228. The article is entitled "God's Design in Our Sanitariums" and was written in the 1890's. This short reference should be read by everyone. The major points seem to me to be:

1. These institutions are to be representatives of Jehovah and to demonstrate His love.

2. These institutions are to present, through practice and health education, principles of healthful living.

3. They are to have scientific excellence.

4. They are to minister to the spiritual, as well as to the physical, needs of the patients.

5. They are to practice rational therapy. Each of these principles could be dis cussed at some length, but the article referred to does this effectively, and that is not my purpose at this time. Rather, I would like to emphasize that these basic, fundamental, and inspired concepts are what make a Seventh-day Adventist medical institution. They are the wheels on which we travel. The result should be the best of medical care.

Today, as a church, we operate many types of medical institutions that give care to people—university medical centers, community hospitals, specialized medical centers such as rehabilitation units, extended care facilities, nursing homes, convalescent homes and retirement villages, psychiatric units, et cetera. Each of these has specific and distinct contributions to make to meet specific needs. Yet in all these, the principles enunciated in the above article are relevant. For example, how does our institution measure up when the standards outlined in the article "God's Design in our Sanitariums" are used for evaluation?

1. Do we really represent Jehovah, the Monarch of the universe, in our appearance, business dealings, personnel policies, and observance of the Sabbath, the day that emphasizes His role as Creator?

2. Do we represent God's high principles of healthful living? Are we an educating influence in our community, presenting a better way of life with all its ramifications? This used to be done with parlor talks, but what is a parlor? In our hospital we have been experimenting with new ways to educate our community. The Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking has been used very effectively, and we can continue to use this program. We have also given Three-Day Plans in the local school systems, presenting nine programs in a period of eighteen months to 4,960 students; we have the Smokers' Dial, weight-reduction programs, Slimnastics, and the LeMaye natural-childbirth classes. We are also finding there is an in creased interest in physical fitness. During Hospital Week we offered a physical-fitness-evaluation program that consisted of height, weight, blood pressure, vital capacity, and cholesterol evaluation. With a minimum of advertising, 270 people from the community crowded our corridors. The pathologist reluctantly agreed to go along with the cholesterol study, but the results surprised him. He found that 25 percent of the people tested had cholesterol levels of over 280 mgs. percent. He then suggested that we test a group of Seventh-day Adventists for comparison. At camp meeting we offered the same test, and the results were that 17.7 percent of Seventh-day Adventists tested had a cholesterol level of 280 mgs. percent or above. (Of particular interest is the fact that below 50 years of age, non-Seventh-day Adventists' cholesterol level averages 16 percent, while that of Seventh-day Adventists averages 0.6 percent.

One other program in the Brunswick, Maine, area is a supervised physical-fitness program in conjunction with the evangelistic meetings.

3. Do we meet the high standards of scientific excellence required today? Is our institution fully accredited by the appropriate groups? Are we keeping abreast of scientific advances? Even smallness is no excuse for mediocrity. Our institution started 11 years ago with 35 beds and a minimum of equipment. Today we have grown to 48 beds and have continued to improve our facilities. Our services are headed by qualified specialists in surgery, gynecology and obstetrics, internal medicine, anesthesia, pathology, radiology, urology, ophthalmology, and pediatrics. We have an intensive-care and coronary-care unit and recently opened the only cardiac-pulmonary diagnostic and treatment laboratory in the area with a qualified technologist. We are now enlarging our X-ray department to accommodate a new image intensifier.

However, we all realize that it is be coming increasingly difficult for any medical facility to be medically independent of the community it serves. Regional medical programs as prescribed by law can be a threat. We have felt that we can help guide their policies. It was with our leader ship that such a group got started with the three hospitals in the area participating, and we have been able to help shape the policies rather than have them shape us. This is a ready-made, captive audience to whom we can continue to define our reason for being.

4. Do we minister to the spiritual needs, as well as the physical needs, of our patients? Do they sense a different attitude in our institution? Today, when it is necessary to hire many non-Seventh-day Adventist workers, are we diluting this important ingredient, or is every opportunity being used to strengthen the spiritual emphasis? We find that giving each new employee the book The Ministry of Healing helps him understand what we are trying to do. In fact, one can turn this need of having to hire non-SDA's into a relative assist, or at least consider it a challenge. These individuals who work with us get to know us as we really are. What do they see? If we have a better way of life they should see it— and some do. Two were recently baptized from among our working force, whose first contact was working at the hospital. Another is receiving studies at present.

"Parlor talks" have been modernized by using individual TV sets. Over these units we are daily programming Voice of Prophecy, It Is Written, dietary hints, Sabbath programs, and other inspirational materials. Our chaplain organizes these programs and effectively utilizes the electronic "parlor talks." On any Sabbath one can sit in our growing new church and see former patients who are either interested or who have already been baptized. Recently a stranger whose fiance had been killed in a tragic airplane accident came to the Parkview Memorial Hospital and told the clerk she wanted to see the chaplain. She made her own diagnosis—she needed spiritual help, and she knew where to come to find it.

5. Rational therapy. The therapeutic nihilist, or the physician who uses few medicines and who uses them judiciously to meet a specific need, is a well-trained physician. His prescribing is very selective. He prescribes a specific drug for a specific purpose. This, to my mind, is rational therapy. But there is more to therapy than the selective and judicious prescribing of the proper medication—there is the element of the prevention and treatment of disease by a proper understanding of its cause and its prevention. This need for health education to prevent disease continues to be a major responsibility of a Seventh-day Adventist health institution.

Our job of education and disease prevention is a big one. You are probably all familiar with the Framingham Study that has been going on in Framingham, Massachusetts, for 19 years to determine what are the predisposing factors in coronary artery disease and stroke. Five thousand people have been followed, and it is now glaringly apparent that the following four factors are important in producing these diseases:

1. Cigarette smoking

2. Obesity

3. Elevated blood pressure

4. Elevated blood lipides

Dr. Kammel, who headed up this pro gram, observes patients' reactions to these facts:

There is the patient who is a recognized coronary risk. His doctor tells him to watch his weight, go on a low-fat diet, stop cigarettes. And the patient says to himself that he could get that kind of advice from his mother-in-law. What he wants is a pill to counteract the effects of his bad habits.—Medical World News, April 19, 1968, p. 48.

Our health-education and physical-fitness program is specifically geared to com bat these diseases that are immobilizers of man. For, after all, one is as effectively immobilized when after a stroke he is blubbering and spilling cereal down his shirt as he would be if he were in a coffin.

Fundamental Concepts Not Obsolete

The university medical center, the Adventist community hospital, the rehabilitation center, the psychiatric unit, the convalescent home, the nursing home, the ex tended-care unit, the medical clinic, can all implement these fundamental concepts even as the sanitarium did in its day. These principles are not obsolete. Perhaps the word sanitarium could have become a trade name for an Adventist institution, but I think we all must admit that it did not make it. But the principles for which the "San" stood are as relevant, important, and modern as when first proposed. Our medical institution, regardless of size, name, or mission, can stand as Daniel and Joseph did, "representatives of Jehovah," channels of light to the world with moral and spiritual power.4 What a stimulating challenge! In fact, this is its guarantee of success.

The Lord revealed that the prosperity of the Sanitarium was not dependent alone upon the knowledge and skill of its physicians, but upon the favor of God. It was to be known as an institution where God was acknowledged as the Monarch of the universe, an institution under His special super vision. ... If conducted in a manner that God could approve, it would be highly successful and would stand in advance of all other institutions of its kind in the world.5

The name sanitarium was not inspired, but the principles to be followed by Adventist medical institutions are. These principles have not, and will not, become obsolete!



1. Horace B. Powell, The Original Has This Signature— W. K. Kellogg, p. 53.

2. Ibid.

3. A personal communication from the White Estate.

4. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, pp. 219-228.

5. Ibid., pp. 223, 224.

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March 1971

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