Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dr. Taussig

Wearing pearls and reading x-rays. Way to go, Dr. Taussig. /// image via
In honor of Elizabeth Blackwell's birthday, February 3rd marked the first National Women Physicians Day. February also happens to be CHD awareness month. The timing seems perfect to share with you one of my heroes, Dr. Helen Taussig. (Let's pretend it's still February and I'm actually finishing this on time, shall we?)

Dr. Taussig was a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins who founded the field of pediatric cardiology. She also assisted in developing the blue baby procedure (Blalock-Taussig-Thomas shunt), still commonly used today. The B-T shunt opened the world to the possibility of open heart surgery and revolutionized the treatment of babies born with congenital heart defects. Scientifically, she's incredibly hard core. But what I love most is her remarkable character which enabled her medical success.

Helen Taussig...

...was not stopped by her personal struggles. 

Dr. Taussig struggled with dyslexia which severely effected her early years of education. You guys, can't tell you how excited I was when I learned this! I was diagnosed with dyslexia in early elementary and struggled with reading for years. I am now a competent reader who absolutely loves reading (thanks, Mom!) but I am also a very slow reader, struggle immensely with spelling (thanks, spell check!), and sometimes have to stop and think when writing by hand. My mom says we all have struggles and they make us great. I wish I could ask Dr. Taussig what encouraged her to push through those pages of swimming letters and conquer reading. But I know fighting that battle gave her the endurance to face greater challenges. And knowing what she was able to accomplish because she did reminds me I have no excuse to be anything less than exceptional.

...was not stopped by opposition.
For many years, Dr. Taussig studied medicine at Harvard and Boston College but neither would grant her a degree because...she was a woman. She was not allowed to speak to her male classmates because of fear of "contamination". Whatever that's supposed to mean... But despite the chauvinistic medical culture, she kept going and eventually earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins (in your face, Harvard).

...was a woman living (and thriving) in a man's world. 
And, I might add, she put them all to shame. Should she have had to prove herself as a woman and excellent doctor? Absolutely not. But she did not allow their disbelief in her ability to deter her. And her reward was a full professorship and equal acknowledgement.

...challenged excepted thinking.
It has amazed me to observe among Addison's caregivers the difference between the providers who accept standard teaching and those who challenge the system and are not afraid to try something new.  The adventurous ones? They are the great ones. Dr. Taussig chose hope for her terminal babies in a world where they were left to die. She was a great one.

...believed in the improbable.
For centuries the heart was considered untouchable and blue babies terminal. Dr. Taussig was willing to take the risk for something she believed in. She did not throw away her shot. (Points if you got that reference...)

And her legacy?

She changed the world.
Every 1 in 100 children are born with a CHD, many of whom will require surgical intervention. Because of Dr. Taussig, there is treatment, there are options there is HOPE of a long and meaningful life. Her work lives on in thousands of tiny beating hearts.

I would love to know...who are some of your heroes in medicine?

1 comment:

  1. What an inspirational post! I'll have to do more research on her, thanks for the read :)