Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD
(1910 - 1995)
The Beginning of a Professional Career
After we moved into a larger house in Brooklyn, New York, our home
life became a little easier. Occasionally, refugee friends from Europe
lived with us for shorter or longer periods, but in 1940 the escape
route from Europe had been almost closed with the German invasion of
Belgium and France. I started to look around for a part-time position
to supplement our income. Personal contact was and still is important
in finding employment. I visited one of the officials of the Academy
of Medicine, whom I had met at a meeting. After I told him my story,
he picked up a telephone and spoke to the commissioner of health of
New York City, and pronto, I was given a position in the eye department
of the New York City health department. This was my first experience
of the power of personal
connections. The New York City Department of Health is probably the best in the
country. It has branches in all districts, so that the people have easy access
to health care in their neighborhoods. It included prenatal care, baby health
stations, tuberculosis and venereal disease prevention and treatment, and eye
clinics for school children. The children’s’ vision was tested by
school nurses, and if, after evaluation, a problem was identified, a referral
to the eye clinics was given, unless parents chose to use a private physician.
My first clinics were in a school in Chinatown and in central Harlem. I enjoyed
working with the Chinese children, whom I found polite, friendly and cooperative.
I once asked a Chinese mother how children were raised in their community. She
replied, that they were never punished by corporal means, since they were taught
to have respect for their elders and were surrounded by love. I wonder if this
is still true today. In Harlem, the health department branch was situated on
5th Avenue and 135 street behind Harlem hospital. At that time the streets were
clean, the houses well maintained, and one did not have fear walking in the neighborhood.
There was no drug problem at that time. Mothers brought their children to the
clinic. Many of the little I girls were dressed in their Sunday best. We were
overworked and I would see as many as twenty children in al morning session,
but I always tried to form some kind of personal relationship with the children,
so that thy would lose their fear. Parents had to buy the prescribed glasses.
Prestige or social status was associated with the type of frame a child had;
these were shown off to friends. Only the children whose parents were on home
relief received free glasses and they could be recognized by their cheap round
frames. Children felt degraded by them and after getting in touch with neighborhood
opticians they cooperated, agreeing to dispense more fashionable frames. Patients
with opthomologicai pathology were referred to hospital clinics.
I worked for the health department for twenty-eight years and was
sent to all districts of New York City, except Staten Island, which
I refused. I enjoyed working with the children and never had a bad
experience when examining them. I hope I helped them to accept a handicap,
since wearing glasses for a child can be a troublesome experience.
I learned some Spanish so that I would be able to communicate with
the Spanish--speaking parents, but soon found that the children were
bilingual and translated what I said; my poor Spanish was rarely needed.
Next time I want to discuss the problem which every professional woman
has to solve for herself, namely, how to combine a professional career
with private life, a question that faced me at the beginning of the Second