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Mary Ellen Avery was born in Camden, New Jersey. She received an A.B. from Wheaton College in 1948 and a M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1952. After completing her house staff training at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Avery was a pediatric research fellow at the Harvard Medical School. Returning to Johns Hopkins University in 1959 as a pediatric fellow, she became pediatrician-in-charge of newborn nurseries at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1961. Avery’s research in infant pulmonary disease led to the discovery that surfactant insufficiency was the cause of respiratory distress syndrome in premature babies. She was promoted to Eudowood Associate Professor Pulmonary Disease of Children in 1965. She went to McGill University in 1969 to become professor and chairman of the department of pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Montreal Children’s Hospital. Avery became the Physician-in-Chief, Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Boston, and the Thomas Morgan Rotch Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School from 1974 to 1985. From 1980 to 1995 she worked with UNICEF on issues of public health. Avery was the 2003 president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2005 she received the American Pediatric Society’s John Howland Medal.

Scope and Content

The Mary Ellen Avery Collection consists of 4 videotapes. Three tapes record medical and surgical grand rounds on the topic of pulmonary surfactants. The other video tape was produced for Harvard’s Joint Committee on the Status of Women and its series, “Women in Medicine” featuring an interview with Avery in June, 1982.

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