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Dr. Florence Pat Haseltine





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1942


Medical School

Albert Einstein College of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
District of Columbia


Career Path

Obstetrics and gynecology: Reproductive endocrinology
Public health: Government
Dr. Florence Pat Haseltine



Inspiration

I always thought that one of my uncles...was one of the first neurosurgeons in this country, and also one of the first Jewish neurosurgeons in this country.

I didn't decide to be a doctor until I was 12...[When one of my closest friends, Anajane] and I were 12, and we used to play together a lot.... Anajane wanted to be a pediatrician, and to impress her, I said, 'Okay. I'll be a doctor, too; but I'll be a neurosurgeon'—because I always thought that one of my uncles...was one of the first neurosurgeons in this country, and also one of the first Jewish neurosurgeons in this country...I just made up my mind.

[Excerpts from: "Interview with Florence Haseltine, Ph.D., M.D., August 8, 1977." Interview conducted by Joyce Antler, Ph.D. Oral History Project on Women in Medicine. (Philadelphia: Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1978), pp. 29, 30, 31, 40. Quoted with permission of Drexel University College of Medicine, Archives.]



Biography

Dr. Florence Haseltine, biophysicist, reproductive endocrinologist, journal editor, novelist, inventor, and advocate for women's health, overcame severe dyslexia to build a rich and diverse career in medicine.

Florence Haseltine comes from a family of scientists. Her father was a physicist for the military, and each of her three siblings has become a distinguished scientist in various professional fields.

While growing up near the Naval Weapons Station in China Lake, California, Florence Haseltine dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She first attended college at the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied physics, then biophysics. She earned her Ph.D. in 1970 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she encountered gender bias, as she had when she attended the University of California at Berkeley. Her experience was not unlike that of many women in the 1960s who ventured into fields of study that had long been exclusive to men. When she later earned her M.D. degree in 1972 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, she experienced a more supportive learning environment. It was there she discovered her joy for "the art of medicine."

As a resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Boston Hospital for Women, Dr. Haseltine decided to write a book about her personal and professional experiences. Teaming up with professional writer Yvonne Yaw, she collected countless hospital anecdotes and observations on audio tape. Yaw turned the experiences into a fictionalized documentary, and the result was Woman Doctor, a 1976 novel that reveals the level of gender bias against women in the medical profession during the 1960s and 1970s.

Dr. Haseltine went on to pursue clinical research on in vitro fertilization at Yale University School of Medicine, then behavioral research with couples receiving the treatment. In view of recent breakthroughs in cloning, she believes that more work in reproductive research will follow. Since 1985 she has been director of the Center for Population Research at the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. The Center funds reproductive science on many levels, including basic research, contraception, behavioral research, family planning, and even population migration. In 1990, she formed the Society for the Advancement of Women's Health Research with other women who, like herself, were advocates for women's health through their work in federal programs or on academic campuses. Up to that time, women's health research had been generally overshadowed by research on male populations. She has expanded her efforts to correct the imbalance through many paths: She has been editor-in-chief of the Journal of Women's Health since 1992, and she edited the comprehensive report Women's Health Research: A Medical and Policy Primer published by the Society for the Advancement of Women's Health Research 1997.

Dr. Haseltine founded Haseltine Systems Corporation in 1995, a company that designs products for people with disabilities. She holds two patents for the Haseltine Flyer, a portable protective container for wheelchairs to be used on airplanes, to allow wheelchair users to travel more easily.

Through a competitive process of international nominations, the Kilby Awards Foundation aims to identify, celebrate, and provide heroic role models for future generations, leaders of the 21st century. Dr. Haseltine's work on behalf of women's health research merited her a Kilby Laureate Award in 1998, "for quietly changing the course of medical history through her dynamic influence on public policy and funding of medical research to include women in critical clinical trials, saving countless lives in the process."



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Being female.

How do I make a difference?

I do not take "No" to mean I cannot do something. I take it to mean that person will not help me. Also, I try to focus on things that are personally relevant to me, but to try to help others in their issues if they request it. [From: "Interview with Florence Haseltine, Ph.D., M.D., August 8, 1977." Interview conducted by Joyce Antler, Ph.D. Oral History Project on Women in Medicine. (Philadelphia: Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1978), pp. 29, 30, 31, 40. Quoted with permission of Drexel University College of Medicine, Archives.]

Who was my mentor?

I really did not have one. I have had people who helped me at different times:

a. My mother, who told me to be good in math, because I would always get a job.

b. My father, who liked his work, so I assumed that if I went to MIT I would like mine as well. So I had a goal from the age of 5 or 6 that I would go to MIT.

c. My first husband, Fred Cahn, who said if they could do it so could I.

d. Anna Maria Torrini-Gorini, a woman at MIT who was always helpful and cheerful.

e. My second husband, Alan Chodos, who does not interfere.

f. A wonderful surgeon at my residency program, Ray Reilly, who taught me how to be a surgeon.

g. Mary Clutter, the associate director for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation, for telling me how the government works and who is always available.

h. Myself. I saw what I did not like in others and tried hard not to be like them. Also, when I do something that makes me feel bad, I try to avoid getting into the same spot again.

[From: "Interview with Florence Haseltine, Ph.D., M.D., August 8, 1977." Interview conducted by Joyce Antler, Ph.D. Oral History Project on Women in Medicine. (Philadelphia: Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1978), pp. 29, 30, 31, 40. Quoted with permission of Drexel University College of Medicine, Archives.]

How has my career evolved over time?

I would say there have been a batches of forks in the road and I have been lucky that I turned down interesting ones.

[From: "Interview with Florence Haseltine, Ph.D., M.D., August 8, 1977." Interview conducted by Joyce Antler, Ph.D. Oral History Project on Women in Medicine. (Philadelphia: Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1978), pp. 29, 30, 31, 40. Quoted with permission of Drexel University College of Medicine, Archives.]


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