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Helen B. Taussig

AKA Helen Brooke Taussig

Born: 24-May-1898
Birthplace: Cambridge, MA
Died: 20-May-1986
Location of death: Kennett Square, PA
Cause of death: Accident - Automobile
Remains: Buried, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA

Gender: Female
Religion: Unitarian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Doctor
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Mother of pediatric cardiology

Physician Helen B. Taussig developed the subspecialty of pediatric cardiology, and found that a lack of oxygen in the blood caused tetralogy of Fallot, commonly called "blue baby" syndrome. With vascular surgeon Alfred Blalock she proposed the Blalock-Taussig shunt, which relieves this obstruction from blood vessels and has saved the lives of many thousands of infants.

She was also the physician who first noticed an increase in certain congenital malformations in Germany and England in the early 1960, traveled to Europe to assess the causes, and connected the birth defects with the use of the tranquilizing drug thalidomide by pregnant women. She reported her findings to Congress and the US Food and Drug Administration, which led to the prompt banning of the drug's use by pregnant women in America, and a law requiring more thorough testing procedures for all medicinal drugs.

Taussig suffered from dyslexia and a severe hearing loss from a childhood bout with whooping cough, and the latter left her unable to use an ordinary stethoscope, but she developed a skill for diagnosis through sensing by touch the rhythms of normal and damaged hearts. She was a student at Harvard, but needed special permission to attend classes at the medical school, which refused admission to women until decades later. She instead earned her MD at Johns Hopkins, where she later taught and spent her entire career. In 1965, she became the first woman to serve as President of the American Heart Association, and in 1972 she was named the first woman master of the American College of Physicians. She was a proponent of national health insurance and women's right to abortion, and she is the namesake of Taussig Children's Pediatric Cardiac Center at Johns Hopkins.

Father: Frank William Taussig (economist professor at Harvard, b. 1859, d. 1940)
Mother: Edith Thomas Guild (botanist, m. 29-Jun-1888, d. circa 1909 tuberculosis)
Sister: Catherine Crombie Taussig
Sister: Mary Guild Taussig Henderson
Brother: William Guild Taussig (b. 1889)

    High School: Cambridge School for Girls, Cambridge, MA (1917)
    University: Radcliffe College (attended, 1917-19)
    University: BA, University of California at Berkeley (1921)
    University: Harvard University (attended)
    Medical School: Boston University (attended)
    Medical School: MD, Johns Hopkins University (1927)
    Administrator: Johns Hopkins Children's Pediatric Clinic (1930-63)
    Teacher: Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University (1946-59)
    Professor: Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University (1959-63)

    National Women's Hall of Fame 1973
    Elizabeth Blackwell Award 1970
    Presidential Medal of Freedom 1964
    Lasker Award 1955 (with Alfred Blalock)
    Passano Award 1948 (with Alfred Blalock)
    French Legion of Honor 1947
    American College of Physicians 1972
    American Heart Association President (1965)
    National Academy of Sciences 1973
    Jewish Ancestry Paternal
    Risk Factors: Dyslexia, Deafness

Author of books:
Congenital Malformations of the Heart (1947)


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