May 1988; Revised, April 2004
Rita Sapiro Finkler was born in 1888 in Kherson, Russia, in the Ukraine, where she was educated at the local gymnasium and obtained a law degree from the University of St. Petersburg. Due to the unrest in Russia during this period, young Rita eventually immigrated to Philadelphia, PA. In Philadelphia, she enrolled in the Woman's Medical College and graduated in 1915. Dr. Finkler served her internship at the Philadelphia Polyclinic Hospital. She married her husband, Samuel Jacob Finkler, MD in 1913. Following Dr. Finkler's internship, she was in charge of a health center in Philadelphia from 1916 to 1918, when she and her husband moved to Newark and developed private practices; she in New Jersey and he in New York.
Dr. Rita Finkler was affiliated with Newark Beth Israel Hospital, where she first practiced pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology. She continued her education seeking to increase her skills at both the Post Graduate and the Mt. Sinai Hospitals in New York City. Her interest in the new field of endocrinology was launched by her avid reading of American and foreign medical journals. She gained further expertise in this specialty by studying with Dr. Bernhard Zondek in Germany. Dr. Zondek with Dr. Selmar Aschheim developed the first hormonal test for pregnancy.
Upon her return to Newark, Dr. Finkler continued her studies of endocrinology by duplicating the experiments she had learned abroad and establishing a small endocrine laboratory at the Newark Beth Israel Hospital, the first such facility in New Jersey. Dr. Finkler publicized the laboratory and its work through frequent lectures and scientific papers. She published sixty-seven papers during her career. The laboratory evolved into the Endocrine Service during the 1930s. Dr. Finkler eventually was appointed the first female attending chief of staff of the Newark Beth Israel Hospital and director of the first endocrine department in New Jersey.
Dr. Finkler was an active participant in professional organizations. She helped establish the New Jersey branch of the American Women's Medical Association and was an active member. She formed a journal club for women physicians. Dr. Finkler was associated during World War II with The Committee to Aid Distressed Women Physicians; an organization that rescued displaced women physicians in Europe during the war and assists them in establishing medical practices in the United States.
Dr. Finkler died in 1968 at the age of 80.
For additional biographical information on Dr. Finkler, see
Becker, SF. A pioneer endocrinologist. New Jersey Medicine 1988; 85(5): 425-427.
Rita Sapiro Finkler, M.D. Medical Woman's Journal 1942; 49: 121-122.
[Untitled biographical sketch]. Journal of the American Medical Women's Association 1956; 11(12): 436-437.
Scope and Content Note
The Rita S. Finkler, MD papers is a small collection documenting aspects of Dr. Finkler's professional and personal life. The papers date from 1916 to 1968. The collection consists of an unpublished autobiography entitled Good Morning, Doctor!, correspondence, publications, photographs, and miscellaneous materials, including news clipping documentation on Serafima Gofmer, an aunt of Dr. Finkler's who was an associate of Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin .
Size of Collection: .25 linear feet
Provenance: Gift, Sylvia Finkler Becker, MD, January 12, 1988.
|1||"Good Morning, Doctor!" an autobiography by Dr. Finkler. (Unpublished typescript, 289 pp.)|
|2||Correspondence, 1916-65 (7 items) includes material on Dr. Finkler's service at Philadelphia Polyclinic Hospital; social affairs related to her profession in the 1930s; a letter from Teheran describing visit to Iran and Kuwait; statement upon recovery from a stroke; letter enroute to Honolulu from Japan.|
|3||Postcards, 1929-65, from Switzerland, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, and enroute by air from Berlin to Vienna.|
|4||Publications, 1941-54 (4 items):|
(A): "The Misuses of Estrogens and Androgens," 5-20-41
(B): With Sylvia Becker, "A Preliminary Evaluation of Dienestrol in Menopause," American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (March, 1947)
(C): "The Effect of Vitamin E in the Menopause, " Journal of Clinical Endocrinology (January 1949)
(D): "Acromegaly and Pregnancy," Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (October 1954).
|5||Medical Woman's Journal (April 1942) includes a biographical sketch of Dr. Finkler and a bibliography of her work [photo of RF on cover].|
|6||Photographs, 1916-68 (13 items). Includes a portrait (ca 1940) and other photos [n.b., one is stored in oversized photographs].|
|7||Serafima Gofmer. News clippings, 1956,66 (2 items) Photocopies of news items on Dr. Finkler's aunt, S. Gofmer, who had been an early associate of Lenin and who had served him throughout the revolution.|
|8||Miscellaneous, 1934-70 (3 items) passenger list for Swedish-American Liner "Kungsholm", 1934; AMA item re Dr. Finkler; broadside for 1970 lecture honoring Dr. Finkler.|