This month we recognize the contributions women in medicine have made to the United States and their respective subspecialties starting with our ANA Presidents!
2023 ANA Women's Roundtable
Audrey S. Penn, MD, FANA
Audrey Shields Penn (born in 1934) is an American neurologist and emeritus professor. Her major area of research was in myasthenia gravis. Penn was elected President of the American Neurological Association in 1994. She was deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and is the first Black woman to serve as an (acting) director of an Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
A native of New York City, after high school she attended Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., where she majored in chemistry and received her B.A. in 1956. But she found she wanted a career that gave her more human contact. "I realized that chemistry didn't have as much to do with people as I wanted," says Penn. "So, I applied to medical school." Penn, a Black woman, began medical school at a time when few women or minorities became doctors. "My medical school class was only 10 percent female, and there were only one or two other minorities," says Penn. "But I was fortunate. There were so few people like me, I didn't get much flak."
Penn gained her medical degree from Columbia University in New York in 1960, interning at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, and completed her neurology residency at Columbia University. She chose neurology, she said, "because there was so much wonderful information to learn about the brain and everything connected to it."
At the University of Pennsylvania, Penn pursued postdoctoral study and research into the biochemistry of muscle diseases, especially myasthenia gravis, and investigated how certain drugs, for example penicillamine, might precipitate autoimmune diseases. She was an NINDS special fellow for postgraduate training in the biochemistry of muscle proteins implicated in muscle diseases. This later evolved into work on the acetylcholine receptor, the target protein in myasthenia gravis.
In 1970, she became the Black member of the Swarthmore College Board of Managers, and a member of the Council of the Education of Women at Yale. In 1972, she was promoted to associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, then in 1982, Penn to professor of neurology, in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. She practiced as a neurologist at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
In 1989, Penn was elected second vice president of the American Neurological Association, then first vice president in 1990, and president for 1994. In this role she served as an important role model for many women physician-scientists. Eva Feldman, another prominent ANA president said, “In brief, she told me, in so many words, I had an opportunity to change the ANA and increase its “voice.” I know I speak for all women of the ANA to say Audrey was and is a role model, mentor and has always had an open “door” and good counsel.”
Penn was also appointed as a member of the council of the NINDS. In 1995, she was recruited by the director Zach Hall to the position of deputy director of the Institute, which oversees intramural research and training, and extramural grants. She described her role: "My job goes all the way from making policy regarding finding the causes of neurological disorders, to training new neurologists and scientists, to dealing with patients and the general public,” she says. “We try to look down the road and make predictions about what will work in solving the problems of people with neurological disorders."
Penn also became the first Black woman to serve as a director of an institute of the NIH, acting in that capacity for NINDS from January to July in 1998, and then from February 2001 to August 2003. After 10 years, in 2007, Penn retired from her position as deputy director, and moved to the Institute's Office of Minority Health and Research, with the role of senior advisor to the Institute's director. A symposium on myasthenia gravis was held in her honor at NINDS in 2007.
In several of the positions she held, Penn was the first Black or the first woman. She was a member of several professional organizations and served as chair of the review panel for medical student fellowships at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, FANA
Anne B. Young, MD, PhD, is a researcher and clinician whose work at the bench and bedside has concentrated on neurotransmitter systems in the basal ganglia and their role in Huntington's, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
She holds membership in both the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) and is also a member of the Royal College of Physicians in England. She is a member of the scientific advisory boards of several voluntary organizations, and the past President of the American Neurological Association and the Society for Neuroscience.
Dr. Young is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Vassar College who completed her medical studies at Johns Hopkins in 1973. She received a PhD in pharmacology from Johns Hopkins in 1974, and then completed residency training in neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.
After residency, she joined the neurology faculty at the University of Michigan, where she advanced to professor in 1985. In 1991, she was recruited to Mass General as chief of the neurology service and Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Young stepped down from her position as chief in May 2012.
As a researcher, Dr. Young provided some of the first evidence that glutamic acid is a neurotransmitter. Subsequently, she and her colleagues identified glutamate as a transmitter of corticostriatal and corticospinal tracts. Her laboratory first described techniques to measure subtypes of glutamate receptors autoradiographically and went on to demonstrate receptor alterations in Huntington's and Alzheimer's disease.
Along with her late husband, John B. Penney, Jr., MD, Dr. Young first conceptualized a model of the functional anatomy of the basal ganglia that has been termed the "classical" model.
Dr. Young's research work includes elucidating cellular and systems mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease. She is spearheading an effort at Mass General to accelerate the discovery of effective therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases.
Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, FANA
Eva L. Feldman MD, PhD, James W. Albers Distinguished University Professor and the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology at Michigan Medicine is a renowned neurologist and neuroscientist who has devoted her career towards understanding the etiology of neurological disorders and developing new treatments. Dr. Feldman is Director of the University of Michigan (UM) ALS Center of Excellence and the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies. She is annually listed in Best Doctors in America, a Past President of the Peripheral Nerve Society and American Neurological Association (ANA)—when elected President of the ANA, she was the third woman to hold this position in 130 years. She is a Fellow of the AAAS and a member of the Association of American Physicians, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), and the immediate past chair of the Neurology and Psychiatry section of NAM. Her work is internationally recognized, with >500 published articles, 4 published books and 70 book chapters (Google Scholar h-index = 118) and >55,000 citations. She was the inaugural Director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at UM when Alfred Taubman gave $100 million in 2011 to support translational research in the Institute by clinician scientists. She held this position from 2007-2017. Dr. Feldman is the only person to receive UM Medical Center Alumni Society Early and Advanced Career Distinguished Achievement Awards (2001, 2019). She has also received lifetime achievement awards from the ADA, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Endocrine Society, and mentoring awards from the Society for Neuroscience and Michigan Medicine.
Dr. Feldman has been continuously NIH funded since 1989, with a strong track record of successful collaborations, as she oversees an established lab with 25 exceptional scientists. Her team also conducts pioneering studies on the pathogenesis of neuropathy in metabolic diseases and identified dyslipidemia during diabetes as a key driver of nervous system damage, leading to new clinical patient care guidelines by the American Diabetes Association. Her research with the ALS exposome has identified pesticides and organic persistent pollutants as increasing ALS risk and decreasing ALS survival, and she was recently awarded an NIH Director’s Transformative Award to continue this work. With a strong track record of directly translating basic research into advances in clinical treatment, she has mentored over 100 postdoctoral and clinical fellows and 10 graduate students, was PI of T32 NS07222 NIH/NINDS Training in Clinical and Basic Neuroscience for over 2 decades, and currently mentors 4 NIH K award recipients, has 4 R01s and multiple foundation grants.
Barbara G. Vickrey, MD, MPH, FANA
Barbara G. Vickrey, MD, MPH, FANA, is the Henry P and Georgette Goldschmidt Professor and System Chair of Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. She specializes in research to redesign care delivery models for chronic neurological disorders and to test the impact of these re‐engineered models versus care as usual, in randomized controlled trials. Among her accomplishments are demonstrating that collaboration among healthcare systems, community organizations, and caregivers can improve quality of care and outcomes for dementia patients and for veterans with Parkinson's disease. She has mentored over 30 graduate and medical students, fellows, and junior faculty in clinical and health services research, many of whom are now successful faculty members and leaders in academic medicine. Of these mentees, more than half are women and one-fourth are from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in science and medicine. Dr. Vickrey was elected to the National Academy of Medicine and is a prior President of the American Neurological Association. She earned her M.D. from Duke University and her M.P.H. from UCLA. She completed neurology residency at the University of Washington, then research fellowships in the UCLA Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program and the RAND/UCLA Center for Health Policy Study.
Frances E. Jensen, MD, FANA
Dr. Jensen is Professor of Neurology and Chairman of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and Co-Director of Penn Translational Neuroscience Center. She was formerly Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Director of Translational Neuroscience and senior neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After receiving her AB from Smith College and her MD from Cornell Medical College, she obtained her neurology residency training at the Harvard Longwood Neurology Residency Program. Her research focuses on mechanisms of epilepsy and stroke, and the mechanistic interaction of epilepsy with other disorders such as autism and dementia, with specific emphasis on elucidating new therapies for clinical trials development. Dr. Jensen received the 2007 Director’s Pioneer Award from the NIH to explore the interaction between epileptogenesis and cognitive dysfunction and was elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine in 2015. She has authored over 150 manuscripts on subjects related to her research and has been continuously funded by NIH since 1987 and received a NIH-NINDS Javits Award in 2020. Dr. Jensen has trained numerous clinical and basic research fellows who now hold independent faculty positions nationally and internationally. Dr. Jensen is currently President of the American Neurological Association (2020-2022) and was President of the American Epilepsy Society in 2012. She has served on multiple leadership boards including Society for Neuroscience and NIH. Dr. Jensen is a Trustee of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and is involved in community outreach for brain research and education. In addition, Dr. Jensen is an advocate for awareness of the adolescent brain development, its unique strengths, and vulnerabilities, as well as their impact on medical, social, and educational issues unique to teenagers and young adults, and author of the book “The Teenage Brain”, released by Harper Collins in 2015/16, translated and published in over 25 languages worldwide.
Margaret Elizabeth Ross, MD, PhD, FANA
Dr. Ross received her MD and PhD from Cornell University Medical College her Neurology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and molecular genetic fellowships at MGH and Rockefeller University. She built her laboratory at University of Minnesota before returning to Weill Cornell Medicine as a tenured Professor. She is a physician scientist to leads the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Development. Common threads in her work have been discovery of gene mutations causing neurological disorders as a window on the drivers of brain development and function. In addition to human genetics, her studies use cell biological tools, genetically engineered mice and now patient derived stem cells to investigate the molecular mechanisms leading to disease.
A leader in the development of a precision medicine approach to understanding neural tube defects (NTDs), Dr. Ross began her work in the area with her discovery of a missense mutation in the WNT co-receptor, LRP6 in the Crooked tail mouse (Cd). Her group used this Cd and the Lrp6 knockout mice to show that while folic acid rescues embryos with the Cd mutation, it exacerbated embryopathy in the full knockout. So, knowledge of the underlying genetics of NTD is critical to understanding individual responses to prevention therapies. She then moved to tackling the complex genetics of human NTDs, in particular myelomeningocele (spina bifida). She has pioneered population based whole genome sequencing studies in spina bifida patients, applying systems biology and machine learning to identify patterns of risk and optimize prevention.
In 2015, she founded the Center for Neurogenetics at WCM. The Center has both basic science and clinical arms, evaluating patients with neurological disorders due to a single gene mutation or requiring multi-gene interactions to manifest. The CNG operates a patient DNA and cell biobank that supports translational research across the neurological community.
Dr. Ross has devoted much of her career to medical and neuroscience education. While at the University of Minnesota, she directed the NIH funded MD-PhD training program, at Weill Cornell Medicine she has served as Chair of the Neuroscience Graduate Program since 2008 and is the founding Chair of the forming Master of Science in Genetic Counseling.
Her current national service includes as an editorial board member of Annals of Neurology and Neurology Genetics, Chair of the NIH-CHHD-C study section, and President Elect of the American Neurological Association.