Béla Schick medal designed by Gerta Ries Wiener, struck by Medallic Art Company in quantities of 300 bronze, 110 pure silver and 20 10kt gold. Obverse: Portrait with young girl, BÉLA SCHICK M.D. 1877-1967. Reverse: Running young girl, The World is kept alive by the breath of Children. Talmud, GERTA WIENER. 47 x 45 mm.
Youthful Béla Schick quoted the Talmud: “The world is kept alive by the breath of children,” to help persuade his father to allow him to pursue continued education in pediatrics, rather than to join the family grain-merchant business in Graz, Austria. Schick became assistant at the Children’s Clinic in Vienna, and later associate professor of pediatrics at Vienna University.
He emigrated to the United States, and in 1923 became pediatrician-in-chief at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He later (1936) was appointed clinical professor of pediatrics at Columbia University. Schick made important studies on scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and the nutrition for infants … but gained international renown for the Schick Test. This test determined susceptibility to diphtheria, and eventually led to the eradication of the childhood disease that attacked 100,000 Americans in 1927, leading to about 10,000 deaths.
A massive five-year campaign, coordinated by Dr. Schick, virtually eliminated the dreaded disease that had taken countless young lives since it was first mentioned in the sixth century writings of Aetius. As a part of the campaign, 85 million pieces of literature were distributed by Metropolitan Life Co. with an appeal to parents to “Save your child from diphtheria.” These illustrated brochures were created by a talented young artist who had recently emigrated from Germany — Gerta Ries. Remarkably, this same artist — Gerta Ries (Wiener) — was commissioned over 75 years later to create the medal of Béla Schick for the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.