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Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dickason King

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1926

Medical School

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons


New York

Career Path

Diagnostic and therapeutic services: Anatomic pathology
Diagnostic and therapeutic services: Pathology
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dickason King


I always wanted to become a doctor. I think it was because of the Doctor Doolittle books by Hugh Lofting. I started work in a hospital laboratory in Newark, New Jersey, at about age 14. It was during the war, and worked there every summer until college graduation. I started with urinalyses and cleaning up, then drew bloods, did blood counts, assays involving animals (for example the AZ text for pregnancy!) and finally could fill in about anywhere except the complicated chemistries. You couldn't have this approach today!


"Sometimes, choosing a particular career path comes down to something as simple as someone saying: 'Here, I've got this job for you.' And you do that job and you realize you enjoy it," said Mary Elizabeth Dickason King, M.D., to explain how she became a pathologist. To keep up with her husband's medical career, she moved eight times in forty-years. Yet through it all, she managed to balance her pathology practice, teaching, and raising three children.

Mary Elizabeth Dickason was born in 1926 in Port Chester, New York. She first discovered her love of medicine while working in a hospital lab in Newark New Jersey at the age of 14. She continued working in the lab every summer until she graduated from Smith College in 1947. Following undergraduate studies, she received her MD from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1951. After interning at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, Dr. King held fellowships under the US Public Health Service in pharmacology at Columbia, from 1952 to 1953, and in biochemistry at the University of Chicago, from 1954 to1955. She was an associate in biochemistry at the Cytophysiology Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 1955 to 1956. She also held fellowships in pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine, from 1956 to 1957, a resident in pathology at Cornell University-New York Hospital, from 1976 to 1978, and a fellow in pathology at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Institute, New York City, from 1978 to 1979.

Dr. King has held faculty positions teaching pathology at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, from 1967 to 1976 and 1990 to 1993, Cornell University College of Medicine, from 1979 to 1983, and the University of Illinois, from 1985 to 1990. Her principal research area has been gynecological and obstetrical pathology.

Dr. King is a member of the International Society of Gynecological Pathologists, International Academy of Pathology, New York Pathological Society, and the Chicago Pathology Society. Happily and "totally" retired, Dr. King boasts six grandchildren and is an active New Yorker, engaged in many aspects of city life. Her daughter, Katherine carries on the family's medical torch as a pediatric pulminologist in Florida.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

I really didn't have any big obstacles. My wonderful parents supported me financially and spiritually, as did my husband, Donald W. King, M.D. When our three children were small, I couldn't have worked full time, so he helped me to keep current by doing volunteer work in his lab and he would assign [me] papers to write.

How do I make a difference?

The practice of medicine is really for the good of the people. Like many retired physicians looking back on our careers, I was always very excited to have been a part of something that truly helped society. Medicine is a demanding and rewarding and exhausting life.

Who was my mentor?

At Smith College, my mentor was Howard M. Parshley, chairman of Zoology and translator for A. A. Knopf's publication of Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex. At Cornell University, it was Elmer E. Kramer, M.D., who patiently instructed me every afternoon in gyne path. At Rush/Pres/St. Luke's it was Alexander W. Miller, M.D., who introduced me to the national scene, the Gyne Oncology group, and was always available for consultation, and the inspiration and friendship of Robert E. Scully, M.D.

How has my career evolved over time?

My career evolved because of these and many other supportive friends, including first and foremost, my husband Donald W. King, M.D. It was a privilege to serve in our great profession of medicine in a time of almost miraculous advances in both treatment and basic science.

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