Taussig, Helen Brooke

Taussig, Helen Brooke,

1898–1986, American physician, b. Cambridge, Mass., M.D. Johns Hopkins Univ., 1927. She spent her entire career at Johns Hopkins, where she founded the field of pediatric cardiology and was one of the first women to become (1959) a full professor at the school. Overcoming dyslexia and later deafness, Taussig did extensive research on anoxemia, or blue babyblue baby,
infant born with a congenital heart defect that causes a bluish coloration of the skin as a result of cyanosis (deoxygenated blood). The color is most noticeable around the lips and at the tips of the fingers and toes.
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 syndrome, which is caused by a congenital malformation of the heart. Her work led to the development of a surgical procedure known as the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt, which eased the condition in certain children; the procedure was first performed on an infant by Taussig and Alfred Blalock in 1944. She was also instrumental in having the drug thalidomidethalidomide
, sleep-inducing drug found to produce skeletal defects in developing fetuses. The drug was marketed in Europe, especially in West Germany and Britain, from 1957 to 1961, and was thought to be so safe that it was sold without prescription.
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 banned in the United States. After retiring from Johns Hopkins in 1963, she did research on heart disorders of birds at the Univ. of Delaware. In 1965 Taussig became the first woman president of the American Heart Association. A prolific writer, she was the author of Congenital Malformations of the Heart (1947) and numerous scientific papers.
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