The History and Sociology of Medicine in San Jose, California

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Most of San Jose’s hospitals started from faith based organizations.  Santa Clara Valley Medical Center was the exception - however, it is notable that its founding doctor, Dr. Benjamin Cory, was known around town as “the singing doctor” because of his propensity to sing hymns as he rode his horse on the dusty streets of 19th century San Jose.  Myles and Amanda O’Connor were devout Catholics who made trips to Europe to buy fine linens and artwork to adorn their hospital. An order of Catholic monks, who had become famous for their selfless care for bubonic plague victims in medieval Europe built the Alexian Brothers Hospital (now Regional Medical Center), and a group of Methodists and Episcopalians desiring whole person care formed Good Samaritan Hospital.  One by one, each hospital has been sold to businesspeople who are running their businesses as they care for the sick. There is nothing wrong with making money but we believe that something fundamental has been lost in this process.

I trained at O’Connor hospital from 2006-2009, when the nuns and priests bustled up and down the hallways, the kitchen staff knew everyone by name, and the homeless patients were kept one or two extra days if it was cold outside.  The nuns used their power to make sure patients were treated equally regardless of income, and were sometimes unpopular when they held that line. While I was there, I cared for a young man who died very tragically and suddenly. One of the priests attended his death alongside me and the young widow, a terrified Spanish-speaking young woman.  The priest brought the presence and comfort of God into that space of grief and loss in a way that is not common. Later I received a letter from him which ministered to my own troubled soul. O’Connor is now a part of the county hospital system, and while I am confident that it will continue to offer excellent medical care, Silicon Valley’s loss of the last health care organization which provides spiritual care alongside health care is a tremendous loss to all of us.

It is the goal of Healing Grove Health Center to rebuild a space wherein patients’ spirits, cultures, and bodies are cared for with compassion, wisdom, grace, and love.

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