In practice, the professionals of the Jewish General Hospital spend their days with their hands out in front of them—wielding a scalpel, checking for a fever, fine-tuning an experiment or helping a patient into bed. But in a figurative sense, they’ve actually got their hands in the sky, as they climb toward the next medical breakthrough or strive for higher quality of care.
That’s why, when Dr. Harry Rosen tried to picture the essence of the JGH, he envisioned an ascending figure reaching excitedly for some special prize that might cure illness or ease pain. His concept—also his gift to the hospital—has now taken the form of a stone sculpture on Côte Ste-Catherine near the corner of Légaré, at the front entrance of the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research.
Measuring about three metres in height and four in width, “The Ascent” was created not only by the mind but by the hands of Dr. Rosen, a passionate sculptor and an active Professor Emeritus at McGill University’s Faculty of Dentistry. The figure, composed of dozens of thin, smooth, horizontal slices of stone, is depicted with its back to the viewer as it scales a wall of rough, massive stone blocks. As its left leg is poised to take the next step up, the figure stretches its right arm into the sky, as far as it can go.
The sculpture, known as “The Ascent”, is accompanied by a plaque featuring one of Dr. Rosen’s favourite sayings from poet Robert Browning: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp—or what’s a heaven for?” Moving and installing the 20-ton monument required the efforts of a team of volunteers.
“Teaching hospitals have been a part of my whole life,” says Dr. Rosen, a legend in his field who has trained and inspired numerous dentistry students over the past 56 years. “I’m happy my sculpture is at the JGH, because I’ve always had and continue to enjoy a close relationship with the people here.”