Rehr, Helen

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Rehr, Helen

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Helen Rehr, DSW worked in the Department of Social Work at Mount Sinai Hospital for thirty-one years (1954-1986). She began as Associate Director of the Department of Social Work and later in 1971 became Director of the department until 1980. During that time, she also acted as Director of the Academic Division of Social Work and of the Division of Continuing Education at the Brookdale Center. She held the position as the Edith J. Baerwald Professor of Community Medicine in Social Work, the second to do so after with Doris Seigel, until her retirement in 1986 and worked as special assistant to the Vice President at Mount Sinai Medical Center (then Sam Davis).

Dr. Rehr was born in 1919 and grew up in the Bronx. Both of her parents were originally from Poland, and she had an older brother who passed away when she was eleven. She attended Hunter College, earning a bachelor’s in mathematics with an economics minor in 1940, then went on to Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), where she earned her master’s degree in 1945 and doctorate in 1970.

Before coming to Mount Sinai Hospital in 1954 she worked at: Sydenham Hospital, Grasslands Hospital, Bellevue Hospital, and the New York City Health Department. While at Mount Sinai she developed the Department of Social Work alongside Doris Siegel, including earning seats on the Medical Board for social work and nursing. Dr. Rehr was the Kenneth L.M. Pray Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work during her sabbatical in 1978 and taught social work in healthcare and applied social work research methodology to its students. She also had visiting professorships at Ben Gurion University, Hebrew University, and Haifa University.

She began the Murray Rosenberg Applied Social Work Research Center and was a member of the editorial board of the Social Work Health Care Journal since 1975. She endowed the Helen Rehr Scholarship Fund to CUSSW’s MS program and has two professorships in her honor, The Helen Rehr Professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and the Helen Rehr/Ruth Fizdale Professor of Health and Mental Health at the Columbia School of Social Work. Dr. Rehr was named a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers, received the Columbia Alumni Federation’s Distinguished Service Alumni Medal in 2004, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at CUSSW.

Dr. Rehr passed away in 2013 at the age of 93.


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Description by Willa Jacob, July 2022.




“CUSSW Mourns the Loss of Social Work Legend Helen Rehr (SW'45, DSW'70).” The Columbia School of Social Work, February 15, 2013.

Gary Rosenberg PhD (2013) A Tribute to Dr. Helen Rehr, Social Work in Health Care, 52:6, 523-524, DOI: 10.1080/00981389.2013.806856

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