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Dr. Carolyn R. Denning





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1927


Medical School

Tulane University School of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
New York


Career Path

Pediatric medicine
Research
Dr. Carolyn R. Denning



Milestones

YEAR
1978
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Carolyn Denning was the first woman to chair the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Medical Advisory Council and was the first to organize and initiate a multidisciplinary team approach to management of the disease.


Inspiration

My father strongly urged that I consider becoming a physician (his own unfulfilled secret desire).

I never considered becoming a doctor when I was growing up because I had no role model and was unaware that women could become physicians. I had assumed that I would become a teacher since I had had strong role models in that profession. However, my father strongly urged that I consider becoming a physician... and promised me his support and backing. Never one to say "no" to my father, the decision had been made!



Biography

When Carolyn R. Denning, M.D., published her first article on cystic fibrosis (CF) in 1958, those diagnosed with the disease rarely lived to enter puberty. Now, after her forty-year career devoted to the illness, 38.7 percent of those with CF in the United States are eighteen years or older. Many of the strides in life expectancy and quality of life are due to the tireless efforts of Dr. Denning and others who have spent their lives working to understand cystic fibrosis and treat those patients diagnosed with the disease.

Carolyn Denning is a 1952 graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana. Following a residency in pediatrics, she completed a research fellowship in cystic fibrosis and celiac disease at Babies Hospital. During and after her fellowship there, Dr. Denning was fortunate to work with Dr. Dorothy H. Andersen, the first physician to describe cystic fibrosis as a disease. After twenty years of service at Babies Hospital, Dr. Denning went to St. Vincent's where she spent the second half of her career in practice.

Throughout her New York City-based career, she focused on all aspects of cystic fibrosis and its treatment. She conducted research, wrote and spoke on cystic fibrosis issues including tooth discoloration, metabolism, pulmonary hypertension, saliographic studies, and psychological and social aspects of the disease. As director of the Cystic Fibrosis and Pediatric Pulmonary Disease Centers at both Babies Hospital of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center, she was the first CF center director in the nation to organize and initiate a multidisciplinary team approach to management.

"My office visits," she says, "are conducted in a private setting with no interruptions by telephone or office personnel with a one-hour minimum allotted to each patient. I am realistic yet optimistic, stressing the importance of hope. I am current on research activities in the field as well as other important relevant events. I follow through on all matters pertaining to the patient and his office visit and I am available by telephone at all times. I put great stress on personal integrity, ethics and moral beliefs. As director of a large, multi-disciplinary group of health professionals, I have worked hard to choose people who share the same philosophy."

During her career, Dr. Denning taught clinical pediatrics at Columbia University, at New York University School of Medicine, and at New York Medical College. She was the first woman to serve on Columbia's admissions committee in the 1970s. She was also the first woman to chair the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Medical Advisory Council, served as president and on the board of trustees. Dr. Denning is a member of the Society for Pediatric Research, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Thoracic Society.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

The only obstacle I recall was the attitude of some male faculty and classmates toward having women comprise 10% of the class. This was more unpleasant than an obstacle and lessened with time.

How do I make a difference?

I believe I have made a difference by the way I interact with people and the problems they face. I strive to become a friend, a confidante and one interested in the welfare of the entire family. My office visits are conducted in a private setting with no interruptions by telephone or office personnel with a one-hour minimum time allotted to each patient. I am realistic yet optimistic, stressing the importance of hope. I am current on research activities in the field as well as other important relevant events. I follow through on all matters pertaining to the patient and his office visit, and I am available by telephone at all times. I put great stress on personal integrity, ethics and moral beliefs. As the director of a large, multidisciplinary group of health professionals, I have worked hard to choose people who share the same philosophy.

Who was my mentor?

In medical school, my mentor was a professor of pediatrics, Dr. Margaret H. D. Smith. During fellowship training, Dr. Dorothy H. Andersen, the first physician to describe cystic fibrosis as a disease entity.



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