David Gurewitsch (1902-1974)
As Eleanor Roosevelt's friend, confidant, personal physician, housemate, and traveling companion during her post-White House years, Dr. David Gurewitsch ultimately became one of the most important figures in the latter part of ER's life.
Born to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Gurewitsch attended medical school in his native Switzerland and then practiced medicine in British-administered Palestine, before coming to the United States in the 1930s. In the U.S., he worked for a number of hospitals in the New York area in the late 1930s, joining the staff of the Neurological Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian, in addition to maintaining a private medical practice of his own. Numbered among his personal patients was Trude Lash, the wife of ER's close friend Joseph Lash. While visiting the Lashes in New York City in 1944, ER became acquainted with Gurewitsch, and when she relocated there after FDR's death she asked him to be her personal physician, as well.
Gurewitsch and ER were cordial and friendly, but their friendship did not begin in earnest until late in 1947 when Gurewitsch was diagnosed with tuberculosis and needed to return to Switzerland for treatment. Unable to find adequate passage on his own, ER arranged for him to travel with her on the same plane that was taking her to Geneva for a meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights. When the plane was grounded because of heavy fog in Ireland, ER took care of the sick doctor and over the course of their two-day delay a bond was struck that would last until ER's death in 1962.
Gurewitsch was an open and sympathetic man, and ER felt comfortable confiding in him many of her anxieties and preoccupations. They corresponded with each other regularly and, over the next fifteen years, Gurewitsch would accompany ER to no fewer than thirteen different countries on her international trips. In the late 1950s, Gurewitsch and his new wife, Edna Perkel Gurewitsch, jointly purchased a townhouse with ER on Manhattan's Upper East Side, revealing just how close ER had become with the Gurewitsches, especially David. As ER battled severe anemia and tuberculosis of the bone marrow, she increasingly relied on Gurewitsch for medical and emotional support. He remained her primary physician until her death on November 7, 1962.
Gurewitsch later expanded his expertise by becoming the UN's first medical director and then as an adviser to Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Abraham Ribicoff. Gurewitsch died in New York City in 1974.
Beasley, Maurine, Holly C. Schulman and Henry R. Beasley, eds. The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001, 219-221.
Gurewitsch, Edna. Kindred Spirits. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002, passim.
Lash, Joseph. Eleanor: The Years Alone. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972, 182-183, 201-203, 305-306, 324-332.