Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Helen M. Ranney
Helen M. Ranney "We were the group that was there in medicine when medicine became a science."

Helen M. Ranney (1920– )
BC 1941, MD 1947
Faculty 1947-65

Helen Ranney's landmark research into hemoglobinopathies, or disorders of the blood, helped establish a link between certain genetic factors and sickle-cell anemia. In 1972, she was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Achievement Award for her work in hemoglobin chemistry. She was also the first woman to chair a university department of medicine (University of California, San Diego, 1973-86), to serve as president of the Association of American Physicians (1984-85), and to become a Distinguished Physician of the Veterans Administration (1986-91).

Ranney graduated cum laude from Barnard in 1941, but her initial application to the College of Physicians and Surgeons was rejected. She instead took a job as a laboratory technician at New York's Babies Hospital, developing skills that helped in her later research. Ranney reapplied to P&S after World War II began, this time gaining admission. In postdoctoral training, she devised a way to distinguish the normal molecular structure of human hemoglobin from an abnormal structure associated with sickle-cell anemia, a disease that primarily affects African Americans; she went on to identify new information about the relationship of structure and function in normal hemoglobin. Throughout more than three decades at Columbia - as a student, intern, resident, fellow, and junior faculty member - Ranney won renown for her excellence as a practitioner, teacher and researcher. She left Columbia in 1965 to take a position on the UCSD faculty.

Nominated by Thomas Bradley, MD 1954


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