The Rip Van Winkle Foundation identifies and promotes policies, techniques and programs that prevent disease. The goal is to stimulate constructive change to benefit the health of all Americans.
The Foundation carries on the ideals of its founder, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD (1902-1975), a surgeon who devoted much of his career to seeking methods for improving the delivery of quality health care to the American people.
After completing his undergraduate education at Yale University and his medical training at Columbia University, he spent his formative years during America's deepest depression, the 1930s, as a practicing surgeon in New York City. During this time he became Lou Gehrig's personal physician following the diagnosis of ALS by the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Esselstyn and his family remained close friends with Lou's widow, Eleanor, who bequeathed a portion of her estate to the Foundation upon her death in 1984. Please see the thelougehrigsociety.org
In 1946, Dr. Esselstyn returned to the family homestead in Columbia County, NY, dating from the early 1600s. Both his training in New York and his practice with the neighboring rural population impressed him with the burdens of illness - both in personal suffering and financial stress. His response was to organize his practice to de-emphasize fees (as the key to quality medical care) and to emphasize health education and early diagnosis. The result was The Rip Van Winkle Foundation which created a nonprofit network of health centers - now considered a major forerunner in the development of the medical systems today.
By the early 1990s, the Foundation expanded its goals to promote the development of preventive services by funding programs and policies that expand the traditional therapeutic approaches of medicine. For example, it sponsored The First National Conference on the Elimination of Coronary Artery Disease, and funded The Caldwell B. Esselstyn Chair in Health Policy Studies at the University of California San Francisco Medical School. In addition, it awarded the University of Rochester Medical Center funds to establish the Child Health Outcomes Research Division within the Strong Children's Research Center.
The image above is a detail of the Thomas Cole painting, "View of the Round-Top in the Catskill Mountains," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The Rip Van Winkle Foundation takes its name from the legendary literary character Rip Van Winkle, a prominent historical figure of the Hudson Valley area. It is a nonprofit, private foundation, founded in 1946 in rural Columbia County, NY, with the broad charge to improve public health.