UNMC history: Reihart a pioneer among Nebraska women scientists

by Erin Torell, McGoogan Library of Medicine | February 06, 2019

Image with caption: Helen Wyandt Reihart

Helen Wyandt Reihart

On Feb. 11, the McGoogan Library of Medicine will celebrate International Women and Girls in Science Day with an enlightening panel discussion on UNMC women scientists' experiences.

One of the earliest woman scientists at UNMC was Helen Wyandt Reihart.

Reihart was born in 1895 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Simmons College in Boston in 1918. She was recruited by the pathology department at Harvard University to replace servicemen during World War I. From 1918 through 1921, she served the U.S. Navy as a yeoman first class, and was stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Mass. Much of her research was related to the 1918 flu pandemic.

Reihart worked with Dr. J. Jay Keegan while at the naval hospital. In 1923, Dr. Keegan recruited her to establish a clinical laboratory at the University of Nebraska Hospital for the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. Reihart was the first medical technologist in the state of Nebraska and the first medical technologist to join the faculty of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. She taught clinical pathology, supervised the clinical clerks' lab work, and directed medical and nursing students in the dispensary and laboratory.

In 1928, she was one the first individuals in the nation to receive certification and registration as a medical technologist by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists Board of Registry. The University of Nebraska Medical Technology training program, founded by Reihart in the 1930s, began with just two students. Thanks to Reihart's work, the program was accredited in 1937-38. Graduates of the program went on to set up laboratories in other Nebraska hospitals.

Reihart made significant contributions in research laboratory science in virology and cytogenetics. She was involved in confirming the first case of polio in Omaha and worked with the department of public health on a polio surveillance program for the state of Nebraska. She authored papers on the immune response to the Asian influenza vaccine, the epidemiology of the Asian flu in Nebraska, and on elliptocytosis. With her veterinarian husband, she also studied warfarin poisoning in pigs and canine distemper.

Reihart retired from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1968. She died in 1998 at age 102.

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Alvin Poole
February 06, 2019 at 7:26 AM

Wow, what an amazing woman and an amazing career she had. Thank you Dr. Reihart!