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Logo of thijTexas Heart Institute JournalSee also Cardiovascular Diseases Journal in PMCSubscribeSubmissionsTHI Journal Website
Tex Heart Inst J. 2010; 37(2): 254.
PMCID: PMC2851418

Helen Taussig

To the Editor:

The timely review of the Taussig-Bing anomaly by Konstantinov1 is a wonderful piece of medical history, spiced with the personal recollections of two towering giants of cardiovascular medicine and surgery, Dr. Bing and Dr. Cooley.

As time goes on, there will be fewer of us who actually met and remember Dr. Taussig. In 1972, when I was a resident in Boston, I attended to Dr. Taussig's sister in a medical emergency, and we as house officers got to know Dr. Taussig quite well. We could even persuade her to conduct an impromptu teaching session, and she later also gave a Grand Rounds presentation on the long-term outcome of Dr. Blalock's “blue baby” surgery. To this day, I remember her sharp intellect, discipline, and great kindness.

In 1921, Helen Taussig was denied admission to Harvard Medical School because she was a woman,2 yet she wrote the first textbook on pediatric cardiology that incorporated hemodynamic principles.3 We must also remember that Helen Taussig almost singlehandedly averted the thalidomide disaster in the United States.4

To her colleague, Richard Bing (himself a pioneer of cardiac catheterization and also a composer, often described as a Renaissance man), she supposedly once remarked: “I wish you had spent more time with your music.”* Certainly no love was lost between her and Dr. Bing. Although she had no formal training in physiology, Helen Taussig, like Richard Bing, has been one of the great American physicians whose life and work continue to inspire us, especially pediatric cardiologists.

Heinrich Taegtmeyer, MD, DPhil
Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of Texas–Houston Medical School, Houston, Texas


*Personal communication: Richard J. Bing; 28 January 2010


1. Konstantinov IE. Taussig-Bing anomaly: from original description to the current era. Tex Heart Inst J 2009;36(6):580–5. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Nuland SB. A triumph of twentieth century medicine. Helen Taussig and the blue baby operation. In: Doctors: the biography of medicine. New York: Knopf; 1988. p. 422–56.
3. Taussig HB. Congenital malformations of the heart. 2nd ed. Cambridge: published for the Commonwealth Fund by Harvard University Press; 1960.
4. Taussig HB. A study of the German outbreak of phocomelia. The thalidomide syndrome. JAMA 1962;180:1106–14. [PubMed]

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