Samuel Nathan Regenstrief (1910-1988) immigrated from Austria as a child with his family. He grew up in Indianapolis, eventually relocating and making his fortune at the helm of Design & Manufacturing (D & M) Corporation in Connersville, Indiana. Considered a visionary on matters related to industrial production techniques, Sam perfected the performance and manufacturing of the home dishwasher, at one point producing more than 40 percent of dishwashers. The success of D & M and Sam contributed to the establishment of the Regenstrief Institute.
But there was something else.
The dates and details have become faded over the years, but we do know that one day, Sam Regenstrief paid a visit to the struggling Marion County General Hospital for a physical. Former Regenstrief Institute director Joanne Fox can recall the large outpatient waiting room in what would become Wishard Hospital:
“It was like a train station, with wooden pews all lined up like a church. ‘You would wait most of the day at one end to see a clinic doctor,’ she recalls. ‘Then, if the doctor ordered some medicine for your condition, you would wait the rest of the day at the other end for the pharmacy to fill your prescription.'”
Regenstrief: Legacy of the Dishwasher King
According to his biography, while Sam Regenstrief, the expert in efficiency, settled in for the long wait he had either a kidney stone or a gallbladder issue, and was left alone on a gurney in terrible pain because the clinic was too busy.
“I can go anywhere in the world to get health care…but these people have no choice,” he later said. “Surely to God there is something we can do about this!”
After experiencing the inefficiency and inequity in healthcare, Sam and his wife Myrtie sought to apply techniques of industry and technological advances to the practice of medicine to make better and more efficient healthcare available to every patient who needed it. Guided by advisers and visionary physicians, they created the Regenstrief Foundation which established the Regenstrief Institute, a living laboratory embedded within Wishard Hospital. With our partners, we have continued to this day to realize Sam’s vision of better care, and better health…for everyone.