Travell, Janet G., 1901-1997

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Dr. Janet G. Travell served on the faculty of The George Washington University School of Medicine and University Hospital as Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, 1961-70, Emeritus Clinical Professor of Medicine,1970-88, and was made an Honorary Clinical Professor of Medicine in 1988. She served as personal physician to two United States Presidents: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (and the first woman to hold the post.) She was also renowned as an expert on myofascial pain - a term used to describe pain and dysfunction of skeletal muscles - and pioneered numerous techniques for dealing with chronic pain. Dr. Travell co-authored the textbook Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction. She was born December 17, 1901 to Willard and Janet Davidson Travell. Her father was a practicing physician for over sixty years. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1922. In 1926 she earned her M.D. from Cornell University Medical College. Two years of internship and residency at New York Hospital followed, in which she simultaneously served as ambulance surgeon on the New York City police force. She married John W.G. Powell, an investment counselor, in 1929. The marriage produced two daughters, Janet and Virginia. Following her residency at New York Hospital, she was a research fellow at Bellevue Hospital, studying the effect of digitalis in thousands of patients with lobar pneumonia. She then returned to Cornell and began work in the Department of Pharmacology as an Instructor and later as Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacology. She was Consultant in Cardiology at Sea View Hospital in Staten Island, doing studies on chest pain. It was during her time studying arterial diseases at Beth Israel Hospital in New York as a Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation fellow (1939-41) that she became absorbed in the problems of skeletal muscle pain. Dr. Travell helped develop new anesthetic techniques for treating painful muscle spasm by employing local procaine injection and vapocoolant sprays such as ethyl chloride and, starting in the mid-1950's, Flouri-Methane spray. In 1955 she was called upon by the orthopedic surgeon of then Senator John F. Kennedy, who had failed to recover from major back surgeries related to injuries he suffered in World War II. Dr. Travell was able to locate muscular sources for his chronic pain, and injected low-level procaine directly into the Senator's lumbar muscles, which proved effective. She also discovered that one of Kennedy's legs was shorter than the other, and ordered special shoes that would relieve the stress this condition put on his back. When John Kennedy was elected President in 1960, he appointed Dr. Travell to the post of Personal Physician to the President, because of his strong belief in her work. She advocated his use of a rocking chair to alleviate President Kennedy's back pain and in the process popularized their use among the public, who saw the President pictured in his rocker in the Oval Office. Dr. Travell would go on to serve President Lyndon Johnson after the death of President Kennedy, and left the White House in 1965. She was the author of more than 100 scientific articles. In 1968, Dr. Travell published her autobiography, Office Hours: Day and Night. Dr. Travell died Aug. 1, 1997 of heart failure at the age of 95.

From the description of Janet G. Travell papers, 1910-1997. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 44921710

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963. White House Staff Files. 1961-1963. National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
creatorOf Travell, Janet G., 1901-1997. Janet G. Travell papers, 1910-1997. George Washington University
referencedIn Harold E. Weeks diaries, 1925-1932 Brooklyn Historical Society
referencedIn Cattell, McKeen, 1891-. Papers of McKeen Cattell, 1923-1976 (bulk). Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
referencedIn Marton, Bernard Dov, 1909-1990. Bernard Dov Marton Papers, 1914-1991, 1998 1932-1970. Yeshiva University
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Cattell, McKeen, 1891- person
associatedWith George Washington University. Hospital. corporateBody
associatedWith George Washington University. School of Medicine. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973. person
associatedWith Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963. person
associatedWith Marton, Bernard Dov, 1909-1990. person
associatedWith Simons, David G. person
associatedWith Weeks, Harold Eastman, 1886-1960 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Seating (Furniture)--Design and construction
Women physicians
Myofascial pain syndromes


Birth 1901-12-17

Death 1997-08-01





Ark ID: w63b76r6

SNAC ID: 55640708