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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                 NANETTE K. WENGER  

INTERVIEWER:            SANDRA BERMAN

LOCATION:                  ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                           FEBRUARY 3, 2020

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Dr. Nanette Kass Wenger was born in New York City to Edith and Aaron Kass.  The family name was abbreviated from Kasakevich when her father arrived to the United States.  Her parents were from a small town near Kiev.  They were both highly educated and highly cultured and spoke several languages.  Dr. Wenger grew up in an observant and kosher home. 

From a young age, she felt inspired by cousins to study medicine who were also in the field.  She graduated from Hunter College in New York in 1951.  In 1954, Dr. Wenger attended Harvard University as the fifth class of women.  She did her residency and cardiology fellowship training at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she met her husband, Dr. Julius Wenger.  She and her husband moved to Atlanta after he was offered a prestigious faculty position at Emory University School of Medicine.  She was based at Grady Memorial Hospital, where she has had a long and successful career in cardiology.  Dr. Wenger has been a leader in the science of cardiology in women and contributed to the advances in the field.  Among her many achievements, she was editor of the American Journal of Geriatric Cardiology and founded Society of Geriatric Cardiology.  She has authored and co-authored many scientific articles.  She has won numerous prestigious awards and mentored numerous women who were training in medicine.

Dr. Wenger joined Hadassah and became a member of Ahavath Achim Congregation on their arrival to Atlanta.  She and her husband have three daughters: Deborah, Judith, and Beth, all of whom attended Sunday school at Ahavath Achim, and have successful careers of their own. 

SCOPE OF INTERVIEW 

Dr. Nanette Wenger begins the interview talking about her parents who came to New York from a small town near Kiev around World War I.  She relates a charming family story of her father’s journey to the United States during Yom Kippur.  She reflects that she grew up attending symphony and opera with her sister.  She discusses her education in New York and reflects that she knew at a young age that she would have a career in medicine.  She talks about attending medical school at Harvard University and being in one of the first classes of women in a field dominated by men.  

She talks about meeting her husband, Dr. Julius Wenger, at Mount Sinai Hospital where she was doing her residency.  She discusses moving to Atlanta in the 1950s with him and her first impressions of living in a segregated society.  She discusses her clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital, a segregated facility, and how she contributed in its desegregation.  She talks about her friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Coretta and entertaining them at her home.  She talks about Rabbis Harry Epstein and Jacob Rothschild’s leadership during the Civil Rights Era.

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