Mary Ellen Avery

Mary Ellen Avery
Professor Emeritus, Thomas Morgan Rotch Professor of Pediatrics Harvard Medical College
2003 Alma Dea Morani Renaissance Award Recipient

Mary Ellen Avery, M.D., a native of Camden County New Jersey received her BS degree from Wheaton College and her Doctor of Medicine degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After years of service at Johns Hopkins and McGill University, Dr. Avery went to Harvard in 1974 as the Thomas Morgan Rotch Professor of Pediatrics. She served in that position until 1997 when she became Professor Emerita.

Known for her outstanding accomplishments, Dr. Avery, in 1950, led pioneering work in hyaline membrane disease which saves thousands of newborns from death. The combination of her work with hyaline membrane disease as well as intensive care treatment of the neonate has advanced the care and outcomes of premature infants over the past fifty years. The benefits in knowledge gained, lives saved, suffering avoided and health care costs abated will last far into the future. Dr. Avery received the National Medal of Science in 1991 from President George Bush for her work on respiratory distress syndrome.

Dr. Avery came to Harvard in 1974, the second woman to hold a department chair at Harvard Medical School. She was responsible for building the largest pediatric department at Harvard as well as being central to the development of pediatrics in the United States. Her trainees hold key academic positions in pediatrics across the United States.

Among her many accomplishments are the publication of two text books and her international work though UNESCO, UNICEF, and the UN where she has served as a spokesperson for the needs of children of the world.

Dr. Mary Ellen Avery is a true Renaissance Woman. She has influenced the field of pediatrics, played a role on the world stage, and continues to be a role model for those who wish to pursue their careers in the field of pediatrics. Dr. Avery was recently elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an organization consistent with her long-standing commitment to both science and human welfare.

Biography from the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine website, here.