Dr. Ethel Weinberg was instrumental in establishing emergency medicine as a medical specialty with a standard training in acute care internship. She identified emergency room medicine (with its flexible hours) as an area well-suited to women with children, and launched a training program that won approval from the American Board of Medical Specialties for the first ever internship in acute care.
Ethel Weinberg graduated from Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1961, and took her residency in anesthesiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital from 1973 to 1975. "I was greatly influenced by circumstances and serendipity," said Dr. Weinberg. "I had a baby the day I finished my internship and worked only part time for a few years. Part of the work was in administration in a new hospital and I found that I enjoyed that sort of challenge." In the late 1960s, Dr. Weinberg considered returning to school for a master of public health degree. She met with Glen Leymaster, dean of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania to discuss the idea. Instead, Dr. Weinberg remembered, "He offered me a job and I was suddenly in medical school administration working on medical manpower issues." In 1968, she became a member of the faculty at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, in the departments of anesthesiology and community and preventive medicine.
With staffing issues one of her primary responsibilities, Dr. Weinberg became concerned by the numbers of women leaving medicine to concentrate on raising their children. Evidently, the structure of training and practice and its schedule were incompatible with family life. As the primary caregiver, a mother often had to sacrifice her career entirely or settle for slow progress professionally.
Dr. Weinberg sought ways to help talented women balance family life with their careers and stay in medicine.
She explained, "I was struck that we needed some form of training that did not require the traditional working hours of a resident and where there were part-time jobs available. It seemed that 'acute care medicine' in emergency rooms was a feasible idea." At that time, hospitals were just beginning to hire doctors specifically for emergency room coverage. As director of the Retraining Program for Women Physicians at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in the early 1970s, Dr. Weinberg organized a fellowship and then won American Medical Association approval for the first acute care internship. She recalled, "I still remember meeting with Bill Ruhe and Jack Nunemaker vice president of the American Medical Association and head of the American Board of Medical Specialties, respectively in a hotel room in Chicago. They told me that there was no such thing as acute care medicine but 'if it would keep the girls happy,' they would approve of it."
In 1974, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Dr. Weinberg to the National Library of Medicine's Board of Regents, where she served on the extramural programs subcommittee. In 1980, Dr. Weinberg was named senior associate dean at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and in 1986, she moved to Massachusetts, where she was made vice president for academic affairs at Baystate Medical Center, a training hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine. She was named dean at Baystate in 1988. During her tenure there, Dr. Weinberg realized that there was a general lack of appreciation for the important role of large, independent teaching hospitals in medical education. In 1989, she formed the Alliance of Independent Medical Centers, to address the common interests of these hospitals. She became the first president of the Alliance, and remained as its chair until 1994. By the early 2000s, more than ten percent of all residents in training in the United States were serving in Alliance-member hospitals and health systems.
During her time in Massachusetts, Dr. Weinberg also served on many national administrative committees, greatly influencing medical school policy. In 1991 and 1992 she chaired the American Hospital Association coordinating committee on medical education and served on its accreditation council for graduate medical education. She was also active in the Association of American Medical Colleges organizing committee for residency education from 1991 to 1995.
Retiring from academic responsibilities in 1996, Dr. Weinberg moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she continued her administrative work as a consultant in academic affairs. She also worked for Larned and Weinberg Academic Health Consultants, focusing primarily on strategic planning issues for teaching hospitals.