Helen Brooke Taussig
May 24, 1898 - May 21, 1986

Helen was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was the youngest of four children and was very sick when she was little. Helen's father taught at Harvard and was an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson. Her mother died when Helen was 11 years old. Helen missed a lot of school when she became ill with tuberculosis. Helen's father was surprised and upset when he realized that Helen had a reading disability that caused her to see words backwards. He worked with her to help her overcome her disability and eventually she became such a good student she could attend Radcliff College.

After completing her degree at Radcliff Helen tried to enter Harvard, but Harvard would not admit women. She took an anatomy course at Boston University and received good advice from her professor who told her to apply to John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. John Hopkins College was one of the only medical colleges that would allow women to take courses to become a doctor.

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Helen became a doctor in 1927, but lost her hearing. She learned to take care of patients by reading their lips and "listening" to their hearts with her finger tips. Helen's sensitivity and good observation skills led her to make one of the most important discoveries in cardiac care in the twentieth century—and led to the beginning of open-heart surgery. Helen learned how to help "blue babies" -- babies that had bad hearts. She developed an operation that helped tens of thousands of children who were born with bad hearts.

Helen made another very important contribution to medicine in the early 1960's when she warned pregnant mothers not to take thalidomide, a sleeping pill that could cause unborn babies to be born without legs and arms. Many women listened to Helen and refused to take the drug while they were pregnant. Helen overcame many obstacles in her life and saved hundreds of thousands of babies and children through the medical procedures she developed and the good advice she offered.

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