Pointing the Way

Dorothy Horstmann was born in 1911 in the state of Washington. She received an undergraduate degree at Berkley and her MD at the University of California, San Francisco in 1940. Her area of interest was infectious diseases.

When she originally applied for a residency at Vanderbilt, she was rejected because of her gender. Later, Vanderbilt forgot her gender and mistakenly offered her a position. It was too late to reject her again.

After finishing her residency she spent time at Yale and U.C. San Francisco. When New Haven Connecticut had an outbreak of polio, she joined the polio research team. The theory was that polio was transmitted to humans’ nervous systems. Dr. Horstmann found contrary evidence that suggested that the polio virus was transmitted through the bloodstream.

Her discovery was medical history and is considered to be the greatest medical breakthrough at Yale. A polio vaccine was later developed by Jonas Salk and then by Albert Sabin. Their names are well known, but that of Dorothy Horstmann is known by few.

Later in her career, Dr. Horstmann played a major role in assuring that the rubella vaccine was safe and effective. She became the first woman to be elevated to a full professor position at Yale. She passed away at age 89 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Horstmann is one of many women who made essential medical breakthroughs but have received little to no credit outside of those in the medical community. How much damage has been done in the advancement of medicine and other areas of science when the role models who might have inspired and their careers remained hidden? That’s the tragedy when hidden heroes are not known due in large part to their biology.

                                                                          * * *

“Childhood vaccines are one of the great triumphs of modern medicine. Indeed, parents whose children are vaccinated no longer have to worry about their child’s death or disability from whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis, or a host of other infections.” – Ezekiel Emanuel (medical researcher)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.