No woman alone: Dorothy Russell’s legacy to neurosurgery

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  • 1 The Loyal and Edith Davis Neurosurgical Research Laboratory, Department of Neurosurgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona; and
  • | 2 Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Dorothy Russell’s contributions to neuropathology are pivotal in the evolution of modern neurosurgery. In an era preferential to men in medicine, she entered the second medical school class to include women at the London Hospital Medical College in 1919. In the laboratory of Hubert Turnbull, she met Hugh Cairns, who would become her professional neurosurgeon-neuropathologist partner. In 1929, arriving at McGill’s Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, where Wilder Penfield and William Cone had just begun a neurosurgical service, Russell elucidated the origin and activity of microglia. Returning to London, Russell continued to work closely with Cairns for many years. Along with J. O. W. Bland, she became the first to culture gliomas and meningiomas. Her work on the effects of and fatality rates associated with head injuries among soldiers during World War II led to the initiation of helmet requirements for motorcyclists. Her textbook, Pathology of the Tumours of the Nervous System, written with Lucien Rubinstein, is considered a landmark text in neurosurgery, neuropathology, and neurooncology. Honored by Penfield and Cone as their first neurosurgery research fellow, Russell was considered a favorite of the Montreal Neurological Institute. Dorothy Russell’s extraordinary career elucidating the mysteries of neurosurgical pathology has made an enduring mark on neurosurgery.

ABBREVIATIONS

MNI = Montreal Neurological Institute.

Illustration from Serrato-Avila (pp 1410–1423). Copyright Johns Hopkins University, Art as Applied to Medicine. Published with permission.

JNS + Pediatrics - 1 year subscription bundle (Individuals Only)

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