Lives of the fellows

Kalman Jacob Mann

b.5 July 1912 d.14 Mar 1997
MB BS Lond(1937) MRCS LRCP(1937) MRCP(1939) DTM&H(1939) MD(1939) FRCP( 1970)

Kalman Jacob Mann was one of those extraordinary people who, once in a generation, through personal genius, extraordinary industry and a combination of circumstances, are able to contribute to the welfare of their fellow men in a very tangible fashion. He was born in Jerusalem, the seventh generation of his family to live in what was by then British Mandatory Palestine. His grandfather was one of the first professional building constructors in the country and his father was a merchant dealing in building materials, so his family were truly engaged in the construction of the Holy Land. The family were orthodox Jews and the young Kalman received a very thorough Talmudic training in addition to his secular schooling in Jerusalem. His mother was more liberal and had an easygoing personality and the combination undoubtedly helped to produce in Kalman a love of learning, humanity and enjoyment of life.

Kalman was obviously a good student and his father decided he should be sent to England to study economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) despite the fact that Kalman was more interested in studying medicine. However, in those days one obeyed one’s parents and so Kalman arrived in London in 1931 speaking virtually no English and was accepted at the LSE after passing a special entrance examination. After only three months it was clear to him that he was not interested in economics and really wanted to study medicine. His father agreed and, after completing preliminary studies at Chelsea Polytechnic in a very short time, he was accepted at University College Hospital Medical School, qualifying with both the conjoint and University of London degrees in 1937. He was then appointed as a house physician at UCH - no mean feat for a foreign graduate in those days. Over the next two years he undertook house jobs in chest medicine in various London hospitals and in 1939 took and passed the membership examination of the London College. In the same year he also obtained his diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene and his MD from the University of London. He managed to find time to court his future wife, Sylvia, and they were married in London in 1940. With the outbreak of the Second World War he was drafted into the emergency medical services and served in various capacities in general and emergency medicine. He then obtained a post as a research physician at the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit in Penarth where he worked for two years with Charles Fletcher [q.v.].

Kalman Mann always intended to return to Jerusalem and the family, now with two children, moved back home in 1949 on the understanding that a position was available at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Fate now took a hand. He did not like his job or the conditions under which he had to work but, just when he was considering leaving Hadassah, he was offered a job in administration and became the assistant to the director general of Hadassah, Eli Davis [q.v.] - an Englishman by birth and training. Not long after this Davis decided to leave administration and return to clinical medicine. In the beautifully informal way things were done in those days Kalman Mann, aged 38 and working for the Hadassah for only two years, was appointed director general.

At the time he was appointed in 1951 the Hadassah Hospital consisted of a number of old buildings scattered throughout the centre of West Jerusalem after access to the main hospital buildings on Mount Scopus was cut in Israel's War of Independence. The Hadassah Hebrew University Medical School had been started in 1949 but was in a very primitive condition, without any proper accommodation. The country was recovering from the war and was in the process of absorbing large numbers of immigrants, many of whom came from very primitive backgrounds and were often desperately ill. Thirty years later when Mann retired the Hadassah University Hospitals comprised a new 600 bed hospital at Ein Kerem in the south of Jerusalem, the refurbished and expanded 300 bed hospital on the original Mount Scopus site (now part of Israel again), a community based outreach health centre at Kiryat Hayovel near Ein Kerem and purpose built schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health and occupational therapy - all due largely to his efforts.

He was not only a genius at planning and organizing the construction, equipping and staffing of these institutions, but he was also a genius at obtaining the funds to make these dreams come true. Much of the funding came from the Hadassah Womens Zionist Organization of America - a wonderful, philanthropic group of American ladies who devoted themselves to providing health care for the people of Palestine and later Israel - and still do. However, there was nobody anywhere as good as Mann at charming these good hearted ladies out of their last dime in the cause of medical care and education. The results speak for themselves - the Hadassah University Hospitals and the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical School are recognized internationally as amongst the leading centres for medical services, teaching and research and over the years have been largely responsible for providing the staff for the other excellent medical schools and hospitals in Israel as well as for training physicians from a number of countries in Africa and elsewhere.

If anyone thought that Kalman Mann would stop working when he retired at age 69 they were very wrong. Since 1977 he had become increasingly involved on a voluntary basis with the Yad Sarah organization which set out to provide ambulatory medical services and home care for patients in need. From 1981 Mann worked full time as its chairman and under his guidance this much needed organization has gone from strength to strength and is now providing a wide range of services throughout the country which enable patients to be cared for in their own home rather than being forced into institutional care. As a measure of its success Yad Sarah was awarded the Israel Prize in 1994 (the Israeli equivalent of the Queens Prize for Industry). Yad Sarah now has over 4000 volunteers working for the organization with 78 branches all over Israel and has now opened branches in Russia and is in the process of opening branches in the USA. Naturally, anyone as talented as Kalman Mann would be sought by various governmental and nongovernmental bodies to head or sit on important planning committees and the list of such appointments is far too long to detail here. Suffice it to say he continued to be involved in this work well after his retirement from Hadassah.

Besides his work, Mann was a devoted family man with a most talented wife -by training an optometrist but recognized as an author of excellent guides to the historical and archaeological sites of Jerusalem and Israel - and four talented children. Even at the age of 85 Kalman Mann was still full of vigour and vitality, working as hard as ever when tragically he was involved in a car crash on the way to his granddaughter’s wedding and all the efforts of his beloved Hadassah Hospital were unable to save him.

Simon Godfrey

(Volume X, page 325)

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