In honor of International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, the Mount Sinai Archives wants to highlight a woman who is not remembered today, but who made a big impact on The Mount Sinai Hospital, Sara Welt Kakels, MD. Dr. Welt (1860-1943) was born in Czernowitz, Bukovina. She was one of four sisters, three of whom became physicians and the fourth a chemist. Sara Welt received her medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1885 and moved to New York City shortly thereafter to be with her sister, Dr. Rosa Welt Strauss, an ophthalmologist who also taught at The Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing.
In 1887, Dr. Welt was appointed to replace Mary Putnam Jacobi as one of the four heads of the Pediatrics clinics at the Hospital. She remained in charge of the clinic while she built a private practice in the community. In 1922 Sara Welt was the first woman to be appointed to the rank of Adjunct Pediatrician at Mount Sinai. She stepped down from active service in 1926 but remained closely affiliated with the Pediatrics Department until her death in 1943, at which time she bequeathed nearly $1,000,000 to Mount Sinai to establish the Sara Welt Memorial Fund, which established the Welt Fellowship program for young physicians who needed financial help, and also provided support of the Pediatric Clinic.
Dr. Welt married Moses S. Kakels, MD, a surgeon at the Mount Sinai clinics but primarily affiliated with Lebanon Hospital. Dr. Welt was very involved in teaching. She held appointments at the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary, where she was an Instructor in the Practice of Medicine. She also lectured at The Mount Sinai Training School for Nurses on Anatomy and Physiology. She was an active member of The New York Academy of Medicine, as well as the New York Pathological Society. She had a pioneering interest in pediatric gynecology, and published over 20 articles on this and other topics.
When she died in 1943, the American Jewish Yearbook noted her final benevolence:
WELT-KAKELS, SARA (MRS. MOSES S. KAKELS), pediatrician Mt. Sinai Hosp., New York, N. Y., (d. Dec. 26, 1943), bequeathed to N. Y. Academy of Medicine $100,000 for aid of sick and needy physicians, $10,000 for lectureship by a pediatrician, and $20,000 for books and literature for library; $20,000 to Lebanon Hosp. for fellowship in surgery in honor of her husband; $10,000 to Hampton (Va.) Normal Agricultural Institute for establishment of four scholarships; and residuary estate, valued at $874,222, to Mt. Sinai Hosp., to set up “The Sara Welt Memorial Fund” ” and establish six traveling fellowships; reptd Feb. 6, 1946.
Sara Welt Fellows continued at The Mount Sinai Hospital for decades. Her support of these young doctors allowed her to touch the lives of thousands of patients.