MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Northern Westchester Hospital staff, administrators and guests took a step back in time last week as nurse Ellen Wood, one of the area's first medical professionals, paid a visit during National Nurses Week.
Born in 1868 on the outskirts of Mount Kisco, Ellen Morris Wood came from one of the area's many Quaker families. After graduating from Johns Hopkins Training School in Baltimore, Md. in 1896, she returned home with a desire to serve her community. Unusual for the time, Wood elected to dedicate herself to in-home care for patients over a large geographical area. At the time of her graduation, Northern Westchester had no hospital to call its own.
Traveling from house to house over the hilly terrain on foot and horseback, Wood was often the only provider of medicine and healthcare for families in the area. In her journals, she describes treating aliments with whiskey and brandy, patients experiencing encounters with the supernatural and helping transport the sickest of patients by train to New York City.
Unfortunately, Wood's work was cut short at the age of 31, as she contracted typhoid fever and died serving soldiers during the Spanish American War. However, her legacy lives on.
Shortly after her death, Wood's family founded the District Nursing Association which, as population swelled, became the current Visiting Nurse Association of the Hudson Valley. Much like Wood did in her day, this organization provides care across Westchester and Putnam counties.
"Northern Westchester Hospital developed the character that would guide it for the next century, and it all started with one nurse," said Joel Seligman, President & CEO of NWH. Reflecting on the work that nurses do day in and day out, Dr. Lauraine Szekely, Chief Nursing Officer thanked all their current staff. "Thank you to all the nurses who work side by side each day, and thank you Ellen Wood for blazing the trail for us to carry on in your name."
Ellen Wood's nephew, Jim Wood, was on hand to witness the 21st century tribute to the pioneering nurse. Later that afternoon and in the spirit of Wood, several nurses were honored for their commitment to excellence.