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Helen B Taussig - a Founder of Pediatric Cardiology

Helen Brooke Taussig is known as the founder of pediatric cardiology for her innovative work on "blue baby" syndrome


In 1944, Taussig, surgeon Alfred Blalock, and surgical technician Vivien Thomas developed an operation to correct the congenital heart defect that causes the syndrome. Since then, their operation has prolonged thousands of lives, and is considered a key step in the development of adult open heart surgery the following decade. Dr. Taussig also helped to avert a thalidomide birth defect crisis in the United States, testifying to the Food and Drug Administration on the terrible effects the drug had caused in Europe.

Helen Taussig was born 1898 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Frank W. Taussig, a well-known economist and professor at Harvard University, and Edith Guild, one of the first students at Radcliffe College. Her mother died when she was only 11, and her grandfather, a physician who had a strong interest in biology and zoology, may have influenced her decision to become a doctor.

Helen Flanders Dunbar - Pioneer in Psychosomatic Medicine

Helen Flanders Dunbar - "the mother of holistic medicine" (Stevens & Gardner, 1982, p. 93)


Dunbar, Helen Flanders (14 May 1902-21 Aug. 1959), psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and pioneer in psychosomatic medicine, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Francis William Dunbar, a mathematician and patent attorney, and Edith Vaughan Flanders, a genealogist. She attended a series of private, largely experimental schools, graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 1923.

Dunbar received four graduate degrees in the next seven years. At one point, she was studying in three programs at three different institutions simultaneously. Columbia University awarded her a master of arts degree in philosophy in 1924 and a doctor of philosophy degree in 1929. Her doctoral dissertation on Dante, "Symbolism in Medieval Thought and Its Consummation in the Divine Comedy," was published in the same year.

Meanwhile, she had enrolled at Union Theological Seminary, receiving her bachelor of divinity degree in 1927, and at Yale University School of Medicine in 1926. She finished her studies for the doctor of medicine degree in 1930.

The Story of Dagmar Berne

The difficult road of the first female medical student


Written by Dr Vanessa Witton, Sydney Medical School Foundation

Dagmar Berne was born in the New South Wales coastal town of Bega on 16 November 1866, the daughter of a Danish-born auctioneer and land owner, Frederick Berne. Her mother, Georgina Witton (who was my great great great great aunt) was born in Hobart. Dagmar’s father died during the Bega flood of 1875 and her mother Georgina remarried shortly after.

The family moved in 1876 to The Lancefield Estate at St Peters in Sydney. For several years Dagmar and the younger Berne children attended Newtown Superior Public School.

In 1882, the teenage Dagmar boarded at the exclusive Springfield Ladies’ College in Darlinghurst.The girls were taught French and other ‘accomplishments’ considered suitable to the education of young ladies in the late nineteenth century. Visiting gentlemen lecturers taught Latin and Mathematics. Chemistry, Physics and Greek were offered to boys at neighbouring schools but were not taught at girls’ schools at the time.

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