Doctors Fill the House at Lenox Hill’s ‘Fantastique’ Ball


By Masha Leon

Published December 19, 2003, issue of December 19, 2003.
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“Is there a doctor in the house?” NBC’s “Today” anchor Ann Curry joked at the November 18 Lenox Hill Hospital “Fantastique” ball at the Waldorf-Astoria when she presented the Medal of Distinction to her co-host Al Roker and to ABC’s “20/20” regular Deborah Roberts, who is married to Roker.

“I’m embarrassed at seeing all the doctors in the audience who know us head to toe,” said Roberts.

Lenox Hill Hospital was founded in 1857 as the German Dispensary at 132 Canal Street. Its founders (both listed in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia) were Dr. Abraham Jacobi (1830-1919), the oft-called “father of American pediatrics,” and Dr. Ernst Krackowizer (1821-1875).

Jacobi, arrested for his involvement in the 1848 German insurrection and imprisoned for two years, fled to England and then came to New York City in 1851. Out of humble roots, Jacobi built a stellar, innovative career. He is credited with the invention of the laryngoscope and was one of the first Americans to use the diphtheria anti-toxin in practice.

Krackowizer, also involved in the 1848 insurrection, is noted for being the first in Vienna to experiment with the effects of chloroform — on himself.

* * *

“I’m a criminal lawyer, and for $40 I get you lunch with a real hit man,” quipped Benjamin Brafman, master of ceremonies at the Israel Cancer Research Fund December 7 “Tower of Hope” Ball at the Pierre Hotel. Brafman (whose clients include Sean “P. Diddy” Combs), was alluding to the evening’s silent auction offer of a $600 lunch with Federico Castellucio, who portrays hit man Furio on the HBO series “The Sopranos.”

“I know that everyone in this room has been touched by the dreaded word ‘cancer,’” Brafman said. “I also know that there are people here tonight who are healthy and productive because of Israeli scientists supported by ICRF.”

The gala honored Harvey and Gloria Kaylie, who have created four fellowships ($25,000 each per year for 20 years) for postdoctoral research in Israel.

* * *

“I was a general surgeon who became [the Israel Defense Forces’] surgeon general,” said Israeli Brigadier General Yechezkel Levi at an intimate November 21 luncheon hosted by Kenneth and Nira Abramowitz at their Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park.

Levi emphasized the urgency of bringing advanced medical technologies to the front line. “At the battlefield there is a 60- to 90-minute critical window‚” to control bleeding and save lives, he said. “We can’t bring blood to the front lines,” but there is “research with the U.S. Army to develop blood substitutes that don’t have to be refrigerated.” He stressed that due to the multigenerational character of Israel’s troops, there are special medical concerns regarding physiology and behavior. And though “every battalion [on the front lines] has two skilled physicians,” he said, unlike the American military with its own facilities, wounded Israeli soldiers have to be sent to civilian hospitals. Levi also addressed the unique health problems of women in physically confining armored vehicles.

Levi, who led Israel Defense Force teams to Rwanda and Kosovo, said: “We came as medical delegations to help…. When the Israeli team delivered 18 Rwandan babies, some of the mothers named their newborns ‘Israel.… And in Kosovo, we [established] the first [field] hospital and set an example of how Jews treat Muslims.”

* * *

“I was poisoned at a dinner at Clinton’s house,” said the president of Lava Records, Jason Flom, who, with his father, Joseph Flom of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, was honored at the December 2 Food Allergy Initiative Ball at the Plaza. “I had to race out…. It was not the right place to die,” Flom said, mentioning “a few near-death experiences” that resulted from accidental ingestion of peanuts or tree nuts.

Sharyn Mann, FAI’s vice chairman, offered a tribute to the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who “supported the food allergic community since FAI’s inception.” Ronald Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings (whose wife Ellen Barkin kept the photographers snapping) was the event chair. An exquisite menu by the chefs from Bouley and Danube (with each dish’s ingredients listed) was savored by guests, including benefit chair Robert Kennedy Jr. and wife Mary Richardson Kennedy, Nita Lowey, Ingeborg Rennert and Larry Silverstein, who greeted me with an enthusiastic “The Forverts! the Forward!”

“There are 7 million Americans with food allergies,” explained Todd Slotkin, FAI’s chairman and president. “Two hundred die each year… In the last 40 years, allergies have increased from one in 100 children to one in 20…. We are looking forward to plain English food labels by 2006…. We seek nothing less than a vaccine for potentially fatal food allergies by the year 2010.” The $2.5 million raised at the ball is earmarked for research toward that goal.

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