Carola Eisenberg Dies at 103; Helped Start Physicians for Human Rights

The doctors’ group, along with another advocacy organization, Human Rights Watch, went on to expose the public health threat, particularly to children, posed by anti-personnel landmines in Cambodia. In a report, it called for an international ban on those weapons. The physicians group then joined with five other organizations to form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

In a statement after Dr. Eisenberg’s death, Alan Jones, the board chairman of Physicians for Human Rights, extolled her for “the unfathomable number of lives she managed to touch, to improve, to ease, and to save.”

Carolina Blitzman was born on Sept. 15, 1917, in Buenos Aires, the second of three daughters. Her father, Bernardo Blitzman, had emigrated to Argentina from Russia as a baby; her mother, Teodora (Kahn) Blitzman, was from Ukraine. Carolina grew up across the street from a slaughterhouse, where her father was an executive dealing in hides.

After graduating from high school, she was trained as a psychiatric social worker in Buenos Aires at the Hospicio de las Mercedes (now the Municipal Hospital of José Tiburcio Borda) before deciding to pursue a medical career.

“I had to go into medicine to be able to do more than just give tickets at Christmastime for the families to have a turkey,” she said in 2008 in an interview with the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine.

She graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a medical degree in 1944.

Prevented by visa complications from accepting a fellowship in child psychiatry in Britain with Dr. Anna Freud, the youngest child of Sigmund, Dr. Eisenberg studied instead at Johns Hopkins University under the tutelage of Dr. Leo Kanner, who had recently coined the term autism. She worked with him at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

She then joined the medical school faculty at Johns Hopkins and practiced psychiatry until 1968, when she became a staff psychiatrist with the student health services at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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