The thought that always strikes me when a friend, family member, famous person passes on, and people start remembering them fondly, recalling stories, is why do we wait until they are no longer present? Why don’t we celebrate them when they are still on this earth to hear how they have touched the lives of so many, especially for those getting up in years? That thought again crossed my mind last week when one of my all time favorite actors James Gardner passed away.
A couple days later while watching the news, I learned the name of the doctor who’d changed the lives of thousands of babies born after 1960, and many today don’t even know. Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey in her first assignment at the FDA, refused to allow the drug thalidomide be approved for use in the USA in 1960. A drug, that a short time later (November 1961) was noted in reports in Europe on severe birth defects in children born to mothers who’d been prescribed it to control morning sickness. There’s no point in my recreating here all she has accomplished in her lifetime, when you can read a nice one-page summary here in Wikipedia, and also explains what thalidomide is, or you can read her biography page here at the National Institute of Health.
On Thursday, Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey turned 100 years old, she’s back living in the area she was born and raised in. Happy Birthday Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, and thank you for standing firm in not approving thalidomide to be put on the market, keeping so many future babies from harm.