Today is International Women’s Day. I would like to celebrate a prominent female physician Dorothy Reed, who had a major influence on the classification of classical Hodgkin lymphoma.
(1874-1964) was a well-respected researcher, obstetrician, and pioneer in methods of childbirth. She was the first to discover that Hodgkin’s disease was actually not a form of tuberculosis, a finding that received international acclaim.
Dorothy Reed Mendenhall, the last of three children, was born September 22, 1874, in Columbus, Ohio, to William Pratt Reed, a shoe manufacturer, and Grace Kimball Reed, both of whom had descended from English settlers who came to America in the seventeenth century. Mendenhall attended Smith College and obtained a baccalaureate degree. Although she initially contemplated a career in journalism, Mendenhall’s interest in medicine was inspired by a biology course she attended.
When they opened the school up to women, Mendenhall applied to Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1900, she was one of the first women to graduate from this school with a doctorate of medicine degree. The next year she received a fellowship in pathology at Johns Hopkins. While there, she taught bacteriology and performed research on Hodgkin’s disease, which physicians then believed was a form of tuberculosis. She disproved this theory when she discovered a common link between diagnosed patients. She found that the blood of these patients carried a specific type of cell. The presence of these giant cells, now known as the Reed cell, distinctly identifies the disease. Mendenhall’s work produced the first thorough descriptions, both verbal and illustrated, of the tissue changes that occur with Hodgkin’s. She was the first to describe the disease’s growth through several progressive states. Mendenhall determined that a patient’s prognosis worsened with each successive stage. She incorrectly speculated, however, that the disease was a chronic inflammatory process. Her finding of the distinctive cell had worldwide importance and was a significant step forward in the understanding and treatment of Hodgkin’s disease. Today, researchers know that Hodgkin’s is a type of cancer characterized by a progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes.