Seen as just another neighborhood hospital, St. Vincent's lost patients and physicians to better known medical centers. In fact, St. Vincent's was one of the best hospitals in New York City.
Research among patients showed that they ranked the level of personal attention they received at St. Vincent's as much better than other hospitals. We built a campaign around this competitive advantage using an editorial format to make the ad look like a feature. (Notice: no logo.) And we interviewed scores of doctors, nurses and patients in order to tell their stories every week in the New York Times.
But Seriously, Folks ...
It's eight o'clock on a Tuesday night, and at the tiny Third Avenue supper club, Dave the emcee is nervous. Only two of the three scheduled acts have shown up.
But it's showtime, so Dave shrugs and decides to go with what he has: a singer who claims to have appeared on the Carson show and a woman comic who calls herself The Lady Ruth.
The audience, Upper East Side singles, mostly, responds to Dave's opening monologue and the singer with equal indifference. Ruth, however, is an instant hit Her delivery is flawless; her timing, near-perfect She is, as they say, a natural.
But The Lady Ruth is no rising young star. She's 58 and just starting out in the tough world of show business. For over thirty years she was a secretary. And for nearly three, she was homeless.
How Ruth went from being an executive secretary to a regular at the woman's shelter is frightening because it could happen to almost anybody. The literary agency where she'd worked for seven years folded with the owner's death. Ruth, her typing abilities crippled by arthritis, couldn't land another secretarial job.
Within three months, she had lost her apartment and her health. Too proud to ask for help from friends and relatives, she found her way to the shelter. That's where the people from St. Vincent's Medical Center found her.
Ruth's blood pressure had been high for some time. Being homeless made it skyrocket. If it hadn't been for the community medicine team from St Vincent's, she might have died. But helping people like Ruth is why doctors, nurses and social workers from the hospital are at the city's shelters and SRO hotels every day.
Gradually, they coaxed Ruth's blood pressure back to normal. And, eventually, she was able to leave the shelter.
Two years have passed since Ruth first auditioned at an improv club. Now she works every date she gets, hoping to be discovered.
And although she describes her material as drawn from life, The Lady Ruth doesn't do any jokes about being on the street.
"There's nothing funny about being homeless, " she says.