New Amsterdam Isn't A Real Hospital, But It Tackles Healthcare's Cold, Hard Truths
While some medical dramas may be based on ripped-from-the-headlines stories, most are overarchingly fictional, and because New Amsterdam isn't a real hospital, the same is technically true for NBC's new show of the same name. The series does, however, draw from the experiences of former Bellevue Hospital medical director Dr. Eric Manheimer. So while you won't find a New Amsterdam anywhere in the Big Apple, the stories it features are very much based in reality.
Though there is a New Amsterdam hospital located in Guyana, the series' title is most likely a nod to New York's previous name. According to the History Channel, the state was originally a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam, but became New York after the English seized control in 1664. Bellevue, meanwhile, was established in 1736, making it America's oldest operating hospital, according to its official website.
As for the show, it's based on Manheimer's 2012 memoir, Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, and Manheimer also serves as a producer. "[The series is] a much deeper dive into what medicine is really all about," he said in a behind-scenes video. "It's messy, it's complicated. And you have to keep your cool and you have to keep going."
As the name states, Manheimer's memoir focused on 12 patients at Bellevue who ranged from "dignitaries at the nearby UN, to supermax prisoners from Riker's Island, to illegal immigrants, and Wall Street tycoons." That's why the New Amsterdam website claims that its (fictional) hospital is "the only one in the world capable of treating Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers and the president of the United States under one roof."
Author David Oshinsky, who quite literally wrote the book on Bellevue, provided some further history about the hospital during a 2016 interview with NPR. He explained that it was a "poorhouse and a pest house" in the 1700s and served as one of the few places the underprivileged could receive care. According to New York Magazine, Bellevue also opened up a "pavilion for the insane" in 1879 and an alcoholic ward in 1892, leading it to become synonymous with asylums.
Beyond that, Oshinsky told NPR, the hospital is believed to have treated more patients during the height of the AIDS epidemic than any other hospital in the nation, and its physicians were at the forefront of now-widely accepted scientific developments like germ theory. At one point, two presidents — James Garfield and Grover Cleveland — were treated there, too, so it does sound like Bellevue's patients really ran the gamut.
But more than anything, Oshinsky said, skilled physicians were drawn to Bellevue because of their real desire to help people from any and all backgrounds. That's what Dr. Manheimer wrote about in his book and it's clearly what the fictional Dr. Max Goodwin is trying to accomplish on New Amsterdam. And with Bellevue's rich history of treating diverse patients in the city of New York, New Amsterdam will have no shortage of stories to tell in its first season.