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For Immediate Release: April 25, 2001
Reprinted from the May/June 2001 DMS Digest
Contact: DMS Communications (603) 650-1492
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Professorship Honors First Woman Physician to Become Full Dartmouth Medical Professor

Hanover, NH -- Dartmouth Medical School has established the E. Elizabeth French Professorship through an anonymous gift of $1.5 million in memory of the first woman physician who was a professor at the medical school.

E. Elizabeth French with a student
(Photo courtesy of the Dartmouth College Library.)

The endowed professorship, announced by DMS Dean John C. Baldwin, will be held by a faculty member active in teaching medical students, and preferably a clinician in the pathology department.

"This generous donation allows the Medical School to honor one of its most venerated faculty members, a leader and role model for more than three decades," said Baldwin. "Dr. Elizabeth (Betty) French was an inspiring educator, an astute diagnostician, and a compassionate physician, dedicated to serving her profession and her community."

A pathologist who was the first — and for years the only — woman member of the Hitchcock Clinic, French initially joined Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital (MHMH) as a medical technologist before leaving to pursue medical studies. She was revered by students and residents for her supportive mentoring and respected by colleagues for her clinical laboratory medicine acumen and diagnostic problem solving skills.

A native of Hanover, French hailed from a prominent Dartmouth medical family. Her father, internist Harry T. French, taught neuro-anatomy at DMS and was a founder of the Hitchcock Clinic; her brothers, Arthur and Rowland, Dartmouth College and Medical School alumni like their father, were also physicians.

Following graduation from Skidmore College in 1943, French enrolled in the medical technology school, then at the MHMH and subsequently became the hospital's chief technologist. She left to study medicine at McGill and after receiving her medical degree in 1950, interned in Cooperstown, N.Y. French returned to Hanover for a residency in pathology at MHMH, where she remained for the rest of her career, except for two periods of graduate studies in London (1953-54 and 1956-57).

Appointed to the DMS faculty in the 1950s, she rose to the rank of professor, the first woman physician to attain full professor during her active teaching career. Regarded for her depth and breadth of knowledge, French kept pace with advances, introducing modern blood banking techniques as well as new methodology and automation to the hospital clinical laboratories. She contributed her expertise and enthusiasm to serve on national and regional professional committees and directed the MHMH joint medical technology education program with the University of New Hampshire.

She was married to Edward Connery Lathem, a Dartmouth alumnus and long-time administrative officer at the College, and was an active member of the Hanover community, particularly as an avid gardener and conservationist. After her death in 1992, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center dedicated a laboratory in her name, the E. Elizabeth French Memorial Laboratory of Clinical Pathology.

Hali Wickner

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