Women Who Inspire Us: Dr. Dorothy Horstmann

portrait of Dorothy Horstmann

As we get our flu vaccines this season, we're inspired by Dr. Dorothy Horstmann. An epidemiologist and virologist, Dr. Horstmann's groundbreaking research on polio set the stage for the creation of the first polio vaccine. 

At the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Horstmann worked with the university's polio team to monitor outbreaks throughout the eastern United States. At the time, polio was thought to grow in the nervous system.  

But as Dr. Horstmann's team worked to determine how polio was transmitted from person to person, they discovered traces of polio virus in the bloodstream. This finding helped them determine that polio reached the brain by way of blood. The first polio vaccine was developed based directly on Dr. Horstmann's research. 

Dr. Horstmann became the first woman named full professor at the Yale School of Medicine in 1961. She served as president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. 

Image courtesy of Yale School of Medicine, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library