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Regina Kaplan

1887 – 1957

by Susan L. Mayer

“Woman of valor” and “a tiny dynamo”—these phrases describe Regina Kaplan (nicknamed Kappy), nurse, teacher, hospital administrator, and health care innovator.

She was born to Gershon and Adella (Hannah Traube) Kaplan, German-born immigrants, in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 12, 1887. Her father had taught school in Germany. Kaplan was the third of five children: Sally, Belle, Regina, Louis G., and Dora. She always said that she learned hesed [loving-kindness] from her parents.

In 1908, Kaplan graduated first in a class of twelve from Mercy Hospital Training School for Nurses, in Denver, Colorado, and worked as a private duty nurse. Although rejected as too short for military service during World War I, she enrolled with the American Red Cross on January 14, 1915 (badge number 5482).

For thirty-five years, Kaplan was superintendent and administrator of the Leo N. Levi Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Beginning in 1916, she developed its School of Nursing, the first school in the South to admit males. The school closed in September 1952.

In 1917, Kaplan organized and directed its outpatient dispensary. She set up a local Red Cross chapter and taught classes in nurse’s aide preparation, home nursing, and first aid to adults and high school students. She hired the first school nurse for Hot Springs and encouraged the establishment of a free public health nursing program.

Kaplan belonged to the American Nurses Association from 1918 on, the Arkansas Nurses Association, and the Colorado State Nurses Association. She chaired the National Rehabilitation Association in the State Hospitals (1928) and was a member of the American College of Hospital Administrators. She attended two hospital administrators institutes: Purdue University in 1940 and Colorado University in 1945. She belonged to the American Hospital Association (vice president, 1945–1946) and urged Levi Hospital’s participation in Blue Cross. Kaplan felt so positively about Blue Cross that she became a member of the board of trustees of the Arkansas Blue Cross, Blue Shield. She continued serving the Garland County Red Cross as executive secretary (1917–1945). In 1944, she was honored with brunch at the White House.

Kaplan founded the Lakewood Convalescent Home for “old age indigents” of Garland County and served as its president from 1946 to 1953. During this time, she also served as president of the Arkansas Hospital Association (1947–1948), was a member of the Mid-West Hospital Association (1948–1949), and was on the advisory consultant board of hospitals for Arkansas, State Board of Health (1949–1953). From 1942 to 1951, she listed herself as organizer and director of the National Arthritis Research Foundation (NARF), an organization that competed with the American Rheumatism Association. NARF funded several projects at the University of Arkansas, then folded. Kaplan contributed to professional journals and read papers before sectional meetings of the American College of Surgeons.

Kaplan served as director and chair of the Temple Beth Israel choir, in which she sang soprano. She also served on Beth Israel’s board of directors. She was a member of the board of directors of the Community Concert Association, president of the Federation of Church Women (1943–1945), secretary of the Hot Springs Community Council, and a member of Eastern Star, Hadassah, and B’nai B’rith. Her club associations included Dale Carnegie, Business and Professional Women, and Explorers.

Kaplan retired on January 16, 1951, but remained a consultant to Levi Hospital. In 1953, she began a second career as director of central supply, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hot Springs, and was a charter member of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Guild.

Diagnosed with cancer, she left Hot Springs to return to Denver. Regina Kaplan died at the Jewish Hospital in Denver on October 8, 1957, her adopted daughter Betty Uzick at her side.

Bibliography

De Kruif, Paul. “The Ace of Hearts.” In Life among the Doctors (1949); LeMaster, C. Regina Kaplan: Arkansas’s ‘Lady with the Lamp.’ (1987); Mayer, Susan L. “The Jewish Experience in Nursing in America: 1881 to 1955.” Ed.D. diss., Teachers College, Columbia University (1996); WWIAJ (1938).

1 Comment

The local synagogue later established the name of Congregation House of Israel and I also served on it's Board of Directors (and as Education Director)

I have quite a bit of additional information and documentation of other accomplishments.

She not only "encouraged" the establishment of a free public health nursing program for Garland County, she is rightfully credited with beginning it in Sentinel Record newspaper article I have. Miss Mary Speare was the first Public Health nurse that she hired in that capacity. (this fact is also noted in "Hospital Heartbeat of the Levi Hospital written by Mrs. George McLaughlin)

She served as PRESIDENT of the Mid-West Hospital Association in the year mentioned in the article above, she was a member for many more years. I have a wooden plaque attesting to this fact. I was also written up about in the Arkansas Jewish Assembly Bulletin November 1950 and other publications

During the time she was honored by Eleanor Roosevelt with a bruch at the White House, she also spoke before Congress. I recently discovered the speech she gave stored in a box.

Eleanor Roosevelt also presented her with a two volume set of Woodrow Wilson's Life and Letters that she inscribed to my Grandmother.

She not only served on the original board of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, she was honored in a pamphlet a few years back as one of it's organizers in Arkansas (something that is also mentioned in other publications I have somewhere in the many boxes of things I came into possession when my mother Betty Kaplan Uzick passed away, and after 2005 when my father passed and we cleaned out the home )

I'll quote a few portions from one of many other references I could use..this from a January 1951 mailing issued by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the publication they then called "Scribe", published monthly by the Arkansas Medical & Hospital Service in Little Rock

Miss Regina H. Kaplan, Blue Cross Board Member, is retiring from her post as Administrator of the Leo N. Levi Memorial Hospital in Hot Springs, on January 16, 1951, the exact date of her thirty-fifth anniversay as hospital head. In her honor, a "thirty-fifth Anniversary Tribue" is being planned, in which the entire city of Hot Springs will join. The Mayor of Hot Springs will proclaim the day "Kaplan Honor Day", she will be honored by local press and radio, and a suitable brochure with tributes fron notables of the nation, state and city, together with a statement of her own words and other features...
( it was broadcast on KTHS KWFC and on a local telecast )

...In December, 1948, with capital obtained from the Arkanas Medical Society, individual members of the Arkansas Hospital Association, and the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, the Arkansas Medical and Hospital Service, Inc, was incorporated and was subsequently approved as a Blue Cross- Blue Shield Plan... ..

I see that the 1938 edition of Whos Who in American Jewry is cited above, she was also listed in the edition of Who's Who in World Jewry in 1955. On page 380 she is listed as Organizer and executive secretary of the Garland County Chapter of the Red Cross from 1917-45, listed as having served as President of the Arkansas Hospital Association in
1947-48 and President of the Mid-West Hospital Association in 1948-49.

Susan Mayer's article only makes reference to her being a "member" of the American Nursing Association in 1918, when in fact she served as it's Vice President that year as the listing in Who's Who in World Jewry for 1955 shows. I believe I have other references elsewhere to support this, too, but i'll have to go do more "digging" in boxes. She belonged to the American Nursing Assocation for many years.

She is listed as organized and directing the National Arthritis Research Foundation from 1942-1951. If my memory serves me correctly it's name was changed to the Arthritis Research Foundation that was later merged in 1964 to become the National Arthritis Foundation...it didn't simply "fold". There was much money raised for a Research Hospital that was planned..but never built, and this was always a great sorrow to my mother as she knew Kappy devoted many years toward this goal. Much of the early research into using ACTH (cortisone) was funded by the National Arthritis Research Foundation.

There were several celebrities that became 'spokespersons"..I believe Lionel Barrymore was mentioned by my mother as having served as one of them. I just "Googled" and discovered that it IS mentioned in his 1954 New york Times obituary! " At one time he was chairman of the national board of sponsors of the National Arthritis Research Foundation."

here is an additional portion of the write up from the Arkansas Medical and Hospital Service (Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield ) "Scribe" January 1951:

"She was instrumental in developing the National Arthritis Research Foundation, to be an affiliate of the hospital she served, and although this dream has not been realized as yet, the coming year will see expenditure of $100,000 on a new scientific research laboratory so that the hospital becomes the only institution in America in the specialization of arthritis and kindred ailments, for which a total budget of over $450,000 is to be available. In the last year of her administration, extensive research has been done with new drugs, Cortisone and ACTH, for relief of arthritis. Our congratulations to you, Regina Kaplann, RN for worthwhile and inspiring service - and our very best wishes for continued improvement in your health."

The entire article lists other accomplishments not referred to in the listing here. Contact me for more information if desired for future editions.

Thank you
Respectfully
Regina A. (Uzick) Faulkner

How to cite this page

Mayer, Susan L.. "Regina Kaplan." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 29, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/kaplan-regina>.

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