Helen B. Taussig

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Helen Brooke Taussig, M.D., (May 24, 1898 - May 20, 1986) was an American cardiologist, working in Baltimore and Boston, who founded the field of pediatric cardiology. Notably, she helped develop the Blalock-Taussig shunt in cooperation with Dr. Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas, to treat blue baby syndrome.


Helen Taussig was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her father was Harvard economist Frank W. Taussig, and her mother Edith was one of the first students at Radcliffe College. Her mother died when she was eleven. She struggled with severe dyslexia through her early school years, overcoming it only with diligent work and extensive tutoring from her father.

She graduated Cambridge School for Girls in 1917, then studied for two years at Radcliffe before earning a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1921. She then studied at both Harvard Medical School and Boston University before pursuing her postgraduate cardiac research at Johns Hopkins University.

She suffered from deafness throughout the latter part of her career, and learned to use lip-reading to listen to her patients, and her fingers in place of a stethoscope to feel the rhythm of their heartbeats.


Dr. Taussig did extensive work on anoxemia, or blue baby syndrome, which led to the development of the pioneering infants surgery called the Blalock-Taussig shunt, first performed by Taussig and Dr. Alfred Blalock on an 11-month old baby girl on November 29,1944. Taussig wrote the book Congenital Malformations of the Heart in 1947, and received the 1954 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research for her work. In 1959, she was one of the first women to be awarded a full professorship at Johns Hopkins University.

She was also one of the key doctors to advise the American Food and Drug Administration to prevent thalidomide from going to market in the United States, after studying European children born with phocomelia because of the improperly tested drug.

In 1964, Taussig received the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson, and in 1965 she became the first female president of the American Heart Association. Johns Hopkins University named the "Helen B. Taussig Children's Pediatric Cardiac Center" after her, and in 2005 the School of Medicine named one of its four colleges in her honor.


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