Ruth L. Kirschstein,

(1926 - 2009)

Dr. Ruth L. Kirschstein

Dr. Kirschstein was a warm, wise woman who had a significant impact on those around her, in both her professional and personal life.  In her 50 year long career at the National Institutes of Health she served in a variety of capacities.  As the Director of NIGMS (National Institute of General Medical Services), she was the first woman to lead any NIH Institute.  She was a senior advisor to several different NIH Direcors and herself served as Deputy Director and acting Director of the NIH at various points during her career.  While working at the NIH some of her projects included researching Polio, working to help develop the Sabin vaccine. Dr. Kirschstein had a long and distinguished career in directing and guiding biomedical science. 

She received her medical degree and honorary degree from Tulane University School of Medicine.  She interned in medicine and surgery at Kings County hospital and did residencies in pathology at Providence Hospital, Detroit, Tulane University Hospital, and the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health.  She also received honorary degrees from the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Long Island University, Atlanta University, the Medical College of Ohio, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. 

Dr. Kirschstein was a member of the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Her list of many awards includes:  the Georgeanna Seegar Jones Women's Health Lifetime Achievement Award, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's Public Service Award, the American Medical Association's Dr. Nathan Davis Award, the Harvey Wiley FDA Special Citation, Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award, the PHS Equal Opportunity Achievement Award and the Alice C. Evans Award.  The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding renamed the NIH's National Research Service Award after Dr. Kirschstein, for her service to the nation, commitment to future generations of scientists and for her brilliant career. 

Dr. Kirschstein volunteered a portion of her time to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and its Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB).  She was involved in the establishment of MARC, a program for minorities at the National Institutes of Health.  Equally important she was a leader in helping to establish the Human Genome Project and charting a path for the future to enable contributions toward fostering the professional development of women in their careers in microbiology and toward facilitating the increased participation of women in the American Society for Microbiology.  Over the course of her career, she recruited women scientists, recommended them for peer review panels, and supported their membership in the Institute of Medicine. 

Dr. Kirschstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, but moved to Maryland in 1955.  She passed away on October 6, 2009, at the age of 83.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2003.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2003