Carolina Eisenberg, co-founder of Physicians for Human Rights, dies at 103

The psychiatrist, born to Jewish emigres in Argentina, was first female dean of students at MIT, Harvard Medical School

Carola Eisenberg (Screen capture: YouTube)
Carola Eisenberg (Screen capture: YouTube)

Carola Eisenberg, a psychiatrist who helped establish Physicians for Human Rights and served as the first female dean of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School, has died at 103.

She passed away on March 11 at a nursing home in Lincoln, Massachusetts. No cause was given for her death, but the Boston Globe said her health had been failing over the past year.

Eisenberg was born in 1917 as Carolina Blitzman to Jewish emigre parents in Argentina. Inspired to study psychiatry after visiting a mental hospital as a teenager, she completed her medical degree at the University of Buenos Aires.

Unable to take up a fellowship in England due to visa issues, Eisenberg moved to the United States to study at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She married fellow psychiatrist Manfred Guttmacher, who died in 1966, before remarrying to Leon Eisenberg, who specialized in autism research.

After consulting at Massachusetts General Hospital, she became the first female dean of students at MIT from 1972 to 1978. She was also the first female dean of students at Harvard Medical School, a post she held from 1978 to 1990.

“Full justice for women requires that they have an equal opportunity for professional success after acceptance to medical school,” she wrote in a 1989 article for the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Medicine is No Longer a Man’s Profession.”

In 1986, she co-founded Physicians for Human Rights with five other doctors after spending time in Latin America documenting rights abuses.

“I have talked about abuses in dictatorial regimes to some of my students,” she was quoted saying by The New York Times, “and I felt it was my moral obligation to do something about it.”

The group would go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for its campaign to ban landmines.

Eisenberg is survived by two sons, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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