Melitta Sperling's death on December 28, 1973, came as a great shock to all but the few who were aware that she had been ill and in pain for some time. Her continued activity in attending scientific meetings, writing and delivering papers, seeing patients in consultation, supervising younger colleagues, and chairing a psychosomatic study group throughout the difficult term of her illness was a measure of her dedication to the practice and teaching of psychoanalysis, a dedication which was always an inspiration to her analysands, students, and colleagues at the Division of Psychoanalytic Education at the Downstate Medical Center of the State University of New York, where she was Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis and a training and supervisory analyst in both child and adult psychoanalysis.
Melitta Sperling was born in Austria and while still in her teens decided to enter the field of pediatric medicine. This early decision to become a 'healer of sick children' was strongly influenced by her admiration of an aunt, one of the few women pediatricians in that overwhelmingly patriarchal society. She graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School, interned at the University of Vienna Hospital, and went on to take her residency in pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Badhall.
While on the child neuropsychiatric service of the University of Vienna Hospital, a part of her pediatric training, she met Dr. Otto Sperling, whom she later married. He was at the time a resident in psychiatry and a candidate at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. Her ambition to 'heal sick children' was redefined during this period and she went on to a residency in psychiatry and to psychoanalytic training.
The Sperlings' awareness of the dangers of Hitler led them to emigrate to the United States. After devoting herself to the rearing of her two children during their formative years, Melitta Sperling resumed her training at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and began working as psychiatric consultant to the Pediatric Department of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.
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