The Doctor Theodore A. Atlas Foundation exists to continue the life’s work of my father, Dr. Theodore Atlas. He was a physician and a man who understood that fulfilling the physical needs of a person had to be done in a way that preserved that person’s dignity. He practiced medicine in Staten Island, New York for fifty-five years. He was known for taking care of patients who either had no medical insurance or the wrong kind. He made house calls to the poorest of communities, knowing that these patients could not afford to pay, but also knowing that he could heal them.
Wednesdays at his office were special – the anesthesia could be smelled in the air and free tonsillectomies were performed. Children were laid on mats and pillows on the floor and parents would pick them up later in the day after they recovered in the makeshift post-operation room.
This practice and need pushed him to build a hospital appropriately named Sunnyside. It consisted of twenty beds and no charges for the poor; just a smile and free follow-ups at the doctor’s office. My father, Dr. Atlas, retired at eighty years of age – still doing house calls free of charge in his old beat up and run down Ford.
The good doctor never wanted his patients to think that being a physician was a business. He believed it was something one commits a life to and in doing so cares about it in a way that should not be tarnished with thoughts of enterprise – for to truly heal someone you must have their full belief. In order to have that belief you must be a human and not a business.
When Dr. Atlas died at the age of eighty-eight a foundation, and not a business, was founded to honor him and to pick up where he left off – to perform house calls to the city’s, and even to the country’s, sick and poor and to ensure that while doing it the recipients would never lose their dignity – something Dr. Atlas worked a lifetime to ensure. That is why there is no bureaucracy, no mounds of applications to be completed, no red tape. Just a discrete verification is needed and a cancer child’s health insurance is paid or a child and her parents are flown to a state where the right treatment can be sought.
The Foundation operates a food pantry that feeds people who would otherwise go to bed hungry. There are sport camps and other programs that bring hope and promise, but still there are more needs. Those needs are addressed by the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, which receives upwards of fifty requests a week and functions on individual and private donations with several fundraisers throughout the year.
We are looking to move to new and greater horizons and to help more people who would otherwise fall between the cracks. While growing to these new and necessary dimensions we will continue to hold true to our vow and belief that there is dual importance and strength in remembering people in different ways. One is to never give up on life – no matter whose it is, and the other is to simply teach our young a simple truth: that when one lives a good life he or she is never forgotten and in that way never really gone.
Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation