Friday, May 2, 2008

Doctoral Student Killed by Drunk Driver Danielle Witherspoon

58-year-old doctoral student killed by drunk driver

By Robert Moran
Inquirer Staff Writer


Sandra Schinfeld, a Melrose Park woman who was about to earn a doctorate in public health at the age of 58, was killed by a 24-year-old drunk driver early Sunday on North Broad Street in the city's Logan section.

Her husband, Jay Schinfeld, 60, who practices reproductive medicine, said they were returning from a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kimmel Center when their car was struck on the passenger side by another vehicle.

Police arrested Danielle Witherspoon, 24, of the 5000 block of North Franklin Street in Olney, at the accident scene near Albert Einstein Medical Center and charged her with involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence.

The accident occurred at 12:18 a.m. and Mrs. Schinfeld was pronounced dead at Einstein at 3:55 a.m., police said. Her husband was treated for minor injuries.

Mrs. Schinfeld was seeking a doctorate at Temple University while also working at the Jefferson Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health at Thomas Jefferson University and serving as vice president of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park.

"She was a vivacious, ebullient, optimistic, just always upbeat person," said Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom.

"This senseless act of drunken driving has taken a star from us," he said. "It's inexcusable."
In an e-mail to dozens of students, staff and faculty at Temple, Stephen J. Lepore, professor of public health, said Mrs. Schinfeld had been working in the Social and Behavioral Health Interventions lab and was "an integral part of the investigative team seeking to improve the life of cancer survivors and to reduce disparities in cancer among medically underserved minority populations."

Lepore, director of Ph.D. programs for the Department of Public Health, added: "In many ways, Sandy was like the lab 'mother,' always interested in what everyone was doing, offering a kind word and advice when needed, and constantly bringing in good things to eat."

In an interview yesterday, Lepore said Mrs. Schinfeld was likely to have completed her doctoral work this summer. He has inquired about whether the university can give her a posthumous honorary degree.

"She was getting real close," said her husband, who specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Abington Memorial Hospital.

Last week, he said, she was up until "1:30 every night" working on her dissertation.

They met 40 years ago while the two attended separate colleges in Connecticut.

The first time he saw her, he said, he told his friends, "I'm going to marry her," which he did four years later.

"To see them at a dance floor at a party," said Rosenbloom, "you could see the chemistry between them."

They raised two sons, Seth and Eric. Mrs. Schinfeld also is survived by her parents, Irv and Roe Gale, and a brother.

Schinfeld said his wife had delayed obtaining a doctorate because "family was her priority."
Laura N. Gitlin, director of the Jefferson Center, said Mrs. Schinfeld pursued her work and studies, as well as volunteerism, because she "was completely involved in the world. She really wanted to make a difference in people's lives."


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