Dr. Mary Ellen Avery

My next door neighbor was professor of pediatrics at Woman’s Medical College in Pennsylvania—Dr. Emily Bacon— and she kindly reached out to me in many ways, and I saw her life as more exciting and meaningful than most of the women I knew—who were my mothers friends, for example, who were busy doing good works, raising children (and I admired them greatly), but I still thought Emily Bacon had something going for her in terms of reaching out to all children. But mainly, she reached out to me, and I’m eternally grateful. So I applied to Johns Hopkins and Harvard. And Harvard didn’t take women at that time but I didn’t know it, and Johns Hopkins did. In fact they had to. They were founded by a woman who had insisted that they wouldn’t get the money to build the school if they didn’t take women on an equal basis with men, and I thought, “Hey, that neutralizes the problem in one dimension,” and Emily Bacon graduated from Johns Hopkins. So there was no question where I was going to go to medical school.

I received the National Medal of Science in 1991. It is America’s highest award for all of science. And so there had been very few pediatricians if any, that had ever been given the medal. They’ve given maybe ten or fifteen a year. It’s presented by the President of the United States to the nominee. This has been very, very rewarding. And I feel that I am a citizen of this one world and that I can resonate with people with a lot in common—it’s called science and science methods. And I am so saturated and pleased to share it with anybody who will listen, and that makes for a very fulfilling life.