As reported in the NYtimes and other media, Dr. Bernadine Healy passed away yesterday at the age of 67. She was a pioneer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leading it as a director and shaping several health initiatives. She was also the first physician to lead the Red Cross the first physician to lead the American Red Cross. As reported by her husband, Dr. Flyod Loop, she died of recurring brain cancer, which she had battled for 13 years.
As the Director of the NIH, Dr. Healy left a legacy of being a touch administrator and the one who championed studies that overturned false assumptions about women’s health. She is credited with having changed the misconception that heart disease was a men’s health problem. “The problem is to convince both the lay and medical sectors that coronary heart disease is also a women’s disease, not a man’s disease in disguise,” Dr. Healy wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1991.
She was led NIH to fund one of the largest research initiatives – the NHLBI’s $625 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)
, a series of studies conducted over years to understand, as the NYTimes reports, “causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and cancer in middle-aged and older women.” Even Long after her tenure, the initiative continued yielding important findings. In 2002, it found that prolonged estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women increased risks of breast cancer, stroke and heart attacks. And even today more findings are emerging from this initiative.
Born as, Bernadine Patricia Healy, in New York City on Aug. 2, 1944, she was one of four daughters of Michael and Violet McGrath Healy. She graduated from Hunter High School in Manhattan in 1962, got through Vassar College in three years and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1970. After postdoctoral work, she became a full professor at Johns Hopkins in 1982 and directed its cardiac care unit from 1976 to 1984.
- NHLBI’s Women’s Health Initiative study for Menopause
- Hormone Replacement Therapy Research Studies -Progress and Controversies
- Summary of Findings from Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Women Healths Initiative Research Study
- Interview with Ann Becker, Director of Women’s Health Research (WHRAZ), Arizona
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: Updates from the Million Women Study Led by Prof. Valerie Beral