Remembering a Pioneering Health Hero

On Aug. 6, a heath hero, a visionary leader, and a pioneer for women and women’s health was lost.  Bernadine Healy, M.D., died of cancer complications at the age of 67.

Healy was the first women to serve as director of the National Institutes of Health and was highlighted by her role as the leader of the American Red Cross during the 9/11 crisis.  She is also known for her determination.  Just three weeks after being named NIH Director in 1991, she went before Congress to announce, “We need a moon walk for women.” That “moon walk” took the form of the Women’s Health Initiative, a $625 million study conducted in more than 40 sites nationwide to study diseases in post-menopausal women as well as strategies to promote a healthier future and was the most definitive, far-reaching clinical trial of women’s health ever undertaken in the United States.  It was the largest clinical trial ever conducted and this research was also the first prospective study on hormone replacement therapy resulting in a sea change in how these medications are used today.

Healy made sure that she was impacting humanity in as many ways possible.  In 1984, she was appointed deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Policy, which then led to her appointment as chair of the White House Cabinet Working Group on Biotechnology, executive secretary of the Science Council’s Panel on the Health of Universities, and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.  If that wasn’t enough, in 1995 Healy was appointed the dean of the School of Medicine at Ohio State University, where she established a School of Public Health, a heart and lung institute, a musculoskeletal institute, and expanded cancer and genomics research there.  She then served as president of the American Heart Association in 1998 and a year later was named president and CEO of the American Red Cross.

Her desire to translate and communicate scientific advances to inform the public of relevant medical issues landed her a spot as a health commentator for CBS News and PBS as well as an editor and columnist for U.S. News and World Report.  She had a passion for her work and was adamant to share anything and everything she had to offer to humanity, making her such a significant and astonishing women and she will be remembered for all she has done.

By friends, family, colleagues, and anyone who knew of Healy, she was known from her fiery spirit, deep concern for the well being of humanity, as well as her brilliance, wisdom, passion, loyalty, integrative thinking and willingness to help others.

“All of us, I believe, in our hearts are humanitarian. And how wonderful to be in a career that in almost any dimension of it—whether you’re the doctor at the bedside, or the scientist in the laboratory, or the public health doc tracking down the latest epidemic—that you are doing something that is pure in its fundamental purpose, which is helping another human being.” – Bernadine Healy


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