Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Susan R. Panny M.D.
MSA SC 3520-14380

Biography:

Dedication to caring for the medical needs of mothers and infants has been the foundation of Dr. Susan R. Panny's long career in heath care.  She has been instrumental in the passage of laws in Maryland that have drastically improved the care administered to both fetuses and infants.  Dr. Panny has worked tirelessly to advocate for increased testing and monitoring of newborns in order to have the best chances of identifying various disorders or diseases, which can improve chances of treatment and, even, full-recovery. 

Dr. Susan R. Panny was born in New York City in 1943.  Her parents immigrated to the United States from Germany and Austria prior to her birth.  At a young age Susan Panny lived with her maternal grandparents while Panny's mother was forced to devote her time to caring for her severely wounded husband, who had just returned from the war.1  Education was of great importance to the Panny family, and Susan was strongly encouraged to work hard and develop an appreciation for learning.  Her love of science and medicine was undoubtedly fostered while attending the Bronx High School of Science in New York City.  A public school, the Bronx High School of Science placed strong emphasis on natural and life sciences while also enabling students to take courses in the humanities, foreign languages, and mathematics.  Dr. Panny excelled in her studies and graduated from the school in 1961.  She became the first person in her family to attend college when she entered Barnard College, the women's college of Columbia University.  The varied and strong educational background gained at her high school can be seen in the degree she earned for her undergraduate work: a BA in German Literature and Chemistry.2   After graduation Dr. Panny married Eaton Lattman, a graduate student in the biophysics department at The Johns Hopkins University.  Desiring to further her own education, Susan Panny enrolled in the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.  After earning her MD degree Magna Cum Laude, Susan and Eaton traveled to Germany to do postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry.3

Returning to the United States, Dr. Panny first worked as a pediatric intern and resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital and then traveled back to Baltimore.  Upon her return to Baltimore, Dr. Panny was offered the Chief Residency in pediatrics at University Hospital, which she eagerly accepted.  She had decided early on in her medical career to focus her work on children, and this position allowed her to expand upon that goal.  After completing her residency, Dr. Panny was eager to take on a fellowship in genetics at Johns Hopkins.  Through this position she was able to blend her backgrounds in pediatrics and genetics which would influence her career path in the future.  Her career choices were hindered, however, due to the pressures placed on women in the science field.  In a Baltimore News-American article about female doctors, Corinne Hammett wrote,

        Susan Panny says she did not go into surgery--which she 'loved'--for "almost a feminine reason.  I felt, first I was too old (she spent five years prior
        to medical school, working as a techinician so her husband could get his career training first), and the course of study is very long.  But I also thought
        I wouldn't be able to have a family if I went into surgery."  She chose instead, diagnostic research, genetics which gives her lab time, teaching duties
        and patient care responsibilities.  At 36, she has had her first child, just six months ago.4 

Dr. Panny undoubtedly faced difficult choices when it came to both her career and family that plagued most women that have entered the demanding field of science in the past and present.

Always aware of the value of a strong eduation, Dr. Panny chose to pass along her knowledge to others and enter the teaching field.  After completion of her various residencies and fellowships, Dr. Panny began teaching at various area universities.  From 1981 to the present she has been a School of Hygiene and Public Health instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  And, from 1984 to the present she has been a clinical assistant professor in both pediatrics and genetics at the University of Maryland.5  Dr. Panny serves as a senior associate in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at The Johns Hopkins University as well, a fitting position with her background and current interests.  She also has the prestigious achievement of being Board Certified in both Pediatrics and Genetics.6   In addition, she is a lifetime member of the Alpha Chapter of the Delta Omega honorary society of the Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health at The Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Susan Panny has worked actively with the State of Maryland on various boards and committees to implement changes in health care for mothers and infants, both in the fetal and newborn stages.  She has held numerous positions, including: member of the State Advisory Council on Hereditary and Congenital Disorders, 1989-92, and 1994-97; and a member of the Advisory Council for Program to Identify Hearing Impaired Infants, 1996-97.7  Currently she is the Director of the Office of Hereditary Disorders at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  In addition, she is the Director of the Office for Genetics and Children with Special Care Needs.8  These positions enable Dr. Panny to work closely with families, health care providers, and legislators to enact the best treatments and laws to serve the needs of patients. 

One of the most recent issues Dr. Panny has worked tirelessly on deals with the length of hospital stays for new mothers.  By the mid-1990s hospital stays for new mothers had gone from an average three days to just one, a result largely due to increasing cost pressures on hospitals.9  After much debate and lobbying, the Maryland legislature became the first to pass the "48-Hour Bill," which would ensure that mothers and newborns would receive adequate medical care in the first two days after delivery.  Dr. Susan Panny was instrumental in both the local and national efforts because she "provided data to the U.S. Congress and assisted in crafting the national legislation which passed in 1997."10  Another significant cause Dr. Panny devotes her energies to deals with ensuring that adequate numbers of tests for newborns are performed to screen for hereditary disorders and abnormalities.  In 2001, Maryland doctors only tested newborns for eight diseases that could cause mental retardation, deafness or death.  However, there are numerous other diseases that can be tested for in the first few days of life that would be beneficial to babies, parents, and doctors.  Dr. Panny was part of a group legislating for an increase of up to thirty more diseases to the standard test to help "stave off medical crises and boost babies' chances for a healthy life."11   This has been an especially significant issue to Dr. Panny because through her career this form of testing would help children develop and would aid in medical research.  She states, "[Each] state has a duty with respect to newborn screening--that duty is to assure every baby is offered screening, every baby is followed up to resolution [diagnosis or no diagnosis], and every baby with a detected condition is connected to appropriate treatment."12   By 2003 Maryland had purchased new machines to perform the expanded screenings and were then going to evaluate the program and decide which disorders it would screen for in the future with the new technology.  Dr. Panny contends that, although these tests have become controversial, the real value of earlier detection can be determined only by comparing children diagnosed at birth with those whose problem is detected later.13   In the meantime she works with various state health offices to perform research, provide information to the public, and help families cope with and understand their children's disorders.

Dr. Susan R. Panny's extensive and impressive career in pediatrics and genetics has drastically improved the lives of mothers and their newborns.  Her work will continue to be of importance to future generations, and her passion and commitment to lobbying for greater benefits for these patients will continue to influence those who follow her.

Endnotes:

1.  Maryland State Archives, Biographical Series, "Maryland Women's Hall of Fame," accessed 8 July 2005.   http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/panny.html.    return to text

2.  "Scientist Profiles: Susan Roseanne Panny, MD." Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders, 2002.   http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/craniofacial/Scientist/ScientistInfo.cfm?id=28.    return to text

3.  Maryland State Archives, Biographical Series.    return to text

4.  Hammett, Corinne F. "Woman M.D.: When Scrubbing Up Means Surgery, Not Dinner Dishes," Baltimore News-American, 7 October 1979.   return to text

5.  "Scientist Profiles: Susan Roseanne Panny, MD." Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders, 2002.  http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/craniofacial/Scientist/ScientistInfo.cfm?id=28.    return to text

6.  Maryland State Archives, Biographical Series.    return to text

7.  State Archives of the State of Maryland, Maryland Manual 1996-97 (Baltimore: United Book Press, 1996). http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000187/html/am187--308.html.    return to text

8.  Maryland State Archives, Maryland Manual On-Line, "Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Organizational Structure," accessed 7 July 2005. http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/16dhmh/html/phs.html.    return to text

9.  "Bill Would Cover Longer Hospital Stays for New Mothers," The Capital, 24 April 1995.    return to text

10.  "Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century," Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Community and Public Health Administration, 3 April 2000.  http://www.cha.state.md.us/olh/pdf/4616Achieve.pdf.    return to text

11.  Bor, Johnathan. "Parents Look to Save 'A Lot of Heartache'; State Weighs Adding 30 Diseases to Infant Screening Program," The Baltimore Sun, 16 February 2001.    return to text

12.  "Financing State Newborn Screening Systems in an Era of Change," Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, March 2005.  http://www.astho.org/pubs/newbornscreening(3).pdf.    return to text

13.  "Debate Surrounds Screening Newborns for Genetic Disorders," Connecticut Post, 19 November 2003.    return to text

Biography written by 2005 summer intern Lauren Morton

Return to Dr. Susan R. Panny's Introductory Page


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