At 100 years of age, the woman who advocated for 50 years for newborn hearing screening, died -- after seeing the screening she advocated for implemented for almost every infant born in a hospital in the U.S. I started thinking about women whose accomplishments helped improve the health of newborns and children. Match the woman with her achievement: (answers at the end):
____ 1. Developed the first effective drug to treat childhood leukemia.
____ 2. Advocated for 50 years for newborn hearing screening.
____ 3. Pioneered the operation that helps cure blue babies; considered the founder of the field of pediatric cardiology.
____ 4. Developed the 0-10 point score used on newborns at one minute and five minutes after birth everywhere around the world to assess their medical condition.
A. Marion Downs
B. Virginia Apgar
C. Helen Brooke Taussig
D. Gertrude Elion
Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig, today known as the founder of pediatric cardiology, worked on "blue babies". She identified the physical problems associated with blue babies and helped develop the surgical technique, known as the Blalock-Taussig operation and first used in 1944, to correct the congenital heart defect that caused newborns to have insufficient oxygen. This remains a lifesaving procedure. This surgical procedure is also considered a precursor of open heart surgery in adults. Taussig received many honors for her efforts including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Speech pathologist Marion Downs entered her career field in 1959 at a time when children with hearing problems often were not treated until age three. She and her colleagues began fitting hearing aids on infants as young as six months old; a practice that was unheard of at that time. By 1964, she had developed observational hearing tests for newborns and began advocating for newborn infant screening. Downs is now credited as the "Mother of Pediatric Audiology". Today, nearly 4 million babies undergo the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) at birth. Downs has been inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame and the Marion Downs Hearing Center has been established to honor her legacy.
Dr. Virginia Apgar has been immortalized through the usage of the Apgar Score - a 0-10 score determined at one minute and five minutes after birth on every newborn. A maximum of two points are awarded for each category based on Dr. Apgar's name - A - Appearance; P - Pulse, G - Grimace, A - Activity, and R - Respiration. The score helps medical professionals assess the baby's condition and provide appropriate treatments if so required. She developed the score in 1952 while observing that mothers were receiving all of the medical attention at birth. She was serving as an anesthesiologist at deliveries at Columbia University. Her many honors include being featured on a U.S. postage stamp and being inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Gertrude Elion's decision to develop therapeutic drugs came as a result of watching her beloved grandfather die a slow and painful death from stomach cancer. This type of work generally requires a doctorate, but her application was rejected by 15 graduate schools because she was a woman. Elion personifies passion, determination and persistence. She did not let the rejection stop her. Her work resulted in the first effective drug to treat childhood leukemia. She also developed the immunosuppressant drug that made organ transplants possible. Elion was responsible for the first drug that attacked viruses, enabling the drug AZT for the treatment of the HIV virus in AIDS patients. I met Gertrude Elion at the White House in 1991 when she received the National Medal of Science. Among her many other awards are the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and induction into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame and the National Women's Hall of Fame.
(answers: 1-D, 2-A, 3-C, 4-B)
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women who worked to improve the human condition are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We all benefit from their outstanding contributions and are proud to stand on their shoulders.