Horstmann, Dorothy M. (Dorothy Millicent), 1911-

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1911-07-02
Death 2001-01-11

Biographical notes:

Dorothy Millicent Horstmann, renowned for her contributions to the pathogenesis and control of viral infections, particularly poliomyelitis and rubella, was born in Spokane, Washington, on July 2, 1911. After her undergraduate and medical training at the University of California, San Francisco, she did clinical training at San Francisco County Hospital and Vanderbilt Hospital. As a Commonwealth Fund Fellow at the Yale University School of Medicine, she began work with John Rodman Paul, the director of the Yale Poliomyelitis Study Unit. In 1944, she was appointed instructor in the Department of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. She was named assistant professor in 1948, and in 1961, became the first woman appointed professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. With her promotion to the John Rodman Paul Professorship of Epidemiology and Public Health in 1969, she became the first woman to hold an endowed chair at Yale University. At her retirement in 1982, she became an emeritus professor and senior research analyst. Horstmann died on January 18, 2001.

From the description of Dorothy M. Horstmann papers, 1927-2001 (inclusive), 1946-1995 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702125441

Dorothy Millicent Horstmann, renowned for her contributions to the pathogenesis and control of viral infections, particularly poliomyelitis and rubella, was born in Spokane, Washington, on July 2, 1911. After her undergraduate and medical training at the University of California, San Francisco, she did clinical training at San Francisco County Hospital and Vanderbilt Hospital. As a Commonwealth Fund Fellow at the Yale University School of Medicine, she began work with John Rodman Paul, the director of the Yale Poliomyelitis Study Unit. In 1944, she was appointed instructor in the Department of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. She was named assistant professor in 1948, and in 1961, became the first woman appointed professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. With her promotion to the John Rodman Paul Professorship of Epidemiology and Public Health in 1969, she became the first woman to hold an endowed chair at Yale University. At her retirement in 1982, she became an emeritus professor and senior research analyst. She died on January 18, 2001.

Dorothy Millicent Horstmann was internationally known for her significant contributions to the understanding and control of poliomyelitis and congenital rubella. The many tributes and honors accorded her make clear how highly she was regarded as a researcher, clinician, teacher and friend.

Horstmann was born in Spokane, Washington, on July 2, 1911. After earning both her bachelors degree (1936) and her M.D. (1940) from the University of California, San Francisco and completing residencies at San Francisco County Hospital and at Vanderbilt University Hospital, she came to Yale University in 1942 as a post doctoral Commonwealth Fund fellow in the Section of Preventive Medicine of the School of Medicine. Here John Rodman Paul, director of the Yale Poliomyelitis Study Unit, stimulated her interest in the epidemiology and pathogenesis of viral infections. In 1944, she was appointed instructor in the Section of Preventive Medicine. She spent the year 1944/1945 as an instructor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and 1947/1948 as a National Institutes of Health Fellow at the Institute of Medical Research in London. Otherwise, she served the entire remainder of her career as a faculty member at Yale. She became an assistant professor in 1948 and attained the rank of associate professorship in 1952. In 1961, she became the first woman to be appointed professor at the Yale School of Medicine. In 1969, when she became the John Rodman Paul Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, she was the first woman ever to hold an endowed chair at the university. President Kingman Brewster appointed her to the Committee on the Status of Academic and Professional Women at Yale in 1970.

Horstmann's early research focused on the pathogenesis of the poliomyelitis virus. In 1946 she discovered that the virus is present in human blood during the incubation period of the infection but disappears later, when the neurologic symptoms begin. This research breakthrough implied that if serum antibodies could be induced by vaccination, the virus in the blood could be neutralized and thus prevent the virus from affecting the central nervous system. Demonstrated through carefully conceived experimental studies in monkeys and epidemiologically based human observations, this discovery became the basis for an efficacious vaccine against polio.

From 1955 to 1961, the Yale Poliomyelitis Unit evaluated immunization against poliomyelitis with live, attenuated vaccine, the Sabin vaccine. It carried out trials of both the Sabin and the Salk vaccines in New Haven, Guadalupe village in Arizona, Costa Rica, and also in Middletown and Southbury, Connecticut. Horstmann also evaluated the oral polio vaccine program in Russia, Czechoslovakia and Poland for the World Health Organization. The resulting report helped develop acceptance of the Sabin vaccine in the United States. In the 1960s and 1970s, Horstmann also did research on the clinical epidemiology of the rubella virus. Her work played a significant role in assuring the safety and effectiveness of rubella vaccine.

When John Rodman Paul died in 1971, leaving unfinished his History of Poliomyelitis, Horstmann took up the task of seeing this work through to publication and of producing a festschrift in his memory. In recognition of her scholarly contributions, Horstmann was elected to the National Academy of Science and the Royal Society of Medicine. In 1983, she chaired the Organizing Committee of the International Symposium on Poliomyelitis Control, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center. She served a term as president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (1974/1975), and the Yale School of Medicine created an annual Dorothy M. Horstmann Lectureship as a continuing tribute. Horstmann died on January 18, 2001.

From the guide to the Dorothy M. Horstmann papers, 1927-2001, 1946-1995, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Poliomyelitis
  • Women in medicine
  • Virology
  • Rubella

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Europe, Eastern (as recorded)