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Welner Enabled, Inc., manufacturer of the Welner Legacy accessible examination table for disabled, bariatric, and geriatric patients
Welner Enabled: Dedicated to accessible, compassionate healthcare for all

About Sandy Welner, M.D. and the Welner Enabled legacy

Sandy Welner, M.D. was a huge figure to the health care community and to the patients she served, and our family is humbled by her legacy and example. I am privileged to introduce you to her in greater detail.

Sandy was a born problem-solver, who always targeted an endpoint and demonstrated remarkable creativity and ingenuity for making her community a better place. Her remarkable ability to communicate complex ideas in simple terms helped her patients better care for themselves, and drew those unfamiliar with the needs of people with disabilities to be more open, responsive, and even commit interest and resources. Her advocacy was real and heartfelt, and above all, selfless.

Even before her accident in 1987, Sandy was responsible for groundbreaking research in using Pergonal to treat infertility, at the very early stages of her career. Even then, she was essentially helping people who experienced themselves as disabled by their inability to conceive and bear children.

Sandy Welner, M.D., inventor of the universally accessible examination tableGrounded catastrophically, she overcame a very dim prognosis, a three year period of total physical dependence, and ultimately, the permanent loss of her previous physical capabilities to nevertheless define her new vehicle to contribute to patient care. Dr. Welner's innate caring and patient-centered attitude sensitized her to the greater ramifications of her own experiences as a woman with disabilities navigating various sectors of the health-care system.

She studied, wrote, and inspired discussion about the unique needs of the the woman with disabilities patient before medicine widely recognized the unique gynecologic needs of a huge sector of patients. Building upon this, Dr. Welner founded a program in 1993 for the gynecologic care of women with disabilities at Washington Hospital Center that was before its time.

While a lack of funding support ultimately scuttled the Washington Hospital program within two years, Dr. Welner drew from a large patient pool in the Washington, DC area, and cultivated an unparalleled scientific and anecdotal sophistication for the needs of these special patients. So devoted was Dr. Welner that her patients reached out to her long after the discontinuation of the program, even to her death in 2001.

Recognizing that women with disabilities may skip important medical follow up because mobility problems can make doctors' appointments an ordeal, Dr. Welner designed the first universally accessible examination table for women with disabilities. The Welner Table is found in facilities around the world. It reflects the necessary sensitivity to accessible care at the level of the examination room, beyond mere ramps and wide elevators.

Dr. Welner's genteel advocacy explored and explained special problems facing women with disabilities from contraception to infections to bleeding to estrogen replacement, to those seeking enjoyable sexuality to those suffering sexually transmitted diseases, from cervical to breast malignancy screening. She was a master of idealistic problem solving, with an incredible eye for detail.

A number of patients with disabilities drew from Dr. Welner's commitment and encouragement in overcoming obstacles to fertility and parenting. She inspired her patients and contemporaries to believe in themselves and their right to a satisfying lifestyle. Dr. Welner remembered well the tenacity she needed to overcome not only her own physical handicaps, but the preconceptions and prejudices of even well-meaning peers about what she could contribute. Many physically, emotionally, and intellectually handicapped looked to her as their Ambassador, sensitive to the prejudices they were encountering, but with the diplomacy and steely determination to succeed and clear the way for others to find more opportunity. Sandy loyally accepted these responsibilities.

Dr. Welner contributed to women's health on a much broader scale through her committee work with various agencies, from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control, to states' health departments and health care institutions such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. These organizations' policies for caring for the disabled were shaped directly by Sandra Welner, M.D. She lectured all over the world at university grand rounds, conferences, and invited special sessions at venues as notable as the United Nations. And she unpretentiously gave to all who asked - and responded just as quickly to the needs of her family and friends. She volunteered at the Sharpe High School for the disabled in the Washington area, inspiring high school students to dream, and to achieve, whatever their limitations.

In recent years, Sandy concentrated her academic and research activities in Washington, DC, as a faculty member of Georgetown and Maryland University medical centers. She researched breast examination accessibility throughout the Washington, DC area in order to promote the modification of their environments to accommodate patients with disabilities.

She developed and produced literature and videotapes designed to educate the the patient with upper-body disabilities to self-examination and breast health. In preparing her patient education materials, Dr. Welner never forgot that some would have difficulty grasping technical concepts; she tailored materials to cultures as specific as Native American, and to Spanish speakers, and to the uneducated.

Dr. Welner contributed scores of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on topics pertaining to the health care of the disabled. She was a regular contributor to Audio Digest, an educational reference series for physicians, as well. At the time of her death, Sandy was completing editing the first edition of a comprehensive textbook on disabled woman's health. It is the first of its kind. This reference text will be published in 2003 by Lippincott Press.

Sandra Welner, M.D. personified a humble, self-effacing individual who used every cell of hers to help others. Her legacy endures in the medical centers she inspired, in the patients she cared for, and in the patients her Welner Table cradles. Her family feels her presence, and her force touches a larger family of many who never met her. We all, nevertheless, will be better for having been graced by her on this earth.

After Sandy's incredibly tragic passing, we received wonderful letters from many, many people she had touched. And Dr. Welner's efforts continue to inspire. Magee Womens' Hospital in Pittsburgh, unveiling a wing specially designed to care for women with disabilities, dedicated its new facility to Dr. Welner. She was also honored by the National Resource Center for Parents with Disabilities with its Disability Rights Advocate Award, for "her commitment and genius in developing universally designed medical examination equipment, and for her work to improve the health care provision to people with disabilities." What a great lady she was. We hope her memory continues to spur those who devote their energies to caring for this special population. We do our part, with Welner Enabled. The extraordinary Dr. Welner would be quietly proud.

Dr. Welner Signature

Michael Welner, M.D.
President, Welner Enabled


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