Frances Kelsey to get VIU honorary doctorate
A Cobble Hill woman, now in her 90's, is being recognized for her contribution to medicine and science by Vancouver Island University.
History professor Cherly Warsh told SunFM News that Dr. Frances Kelsey is receiving an honorary doctorate for arguing that the drug thalidomide was causing birth defects in the mid-century. Mothers had been taken the drug for morning sickness.
“It had different birth defects; it can cause deafness, blindness, and all kinds of internal problems. But it also had a distinctive deformity in that children would be born without arms or legs, but they would have feet and hands.”
Kelsey took a historic stand at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1960 when she refused to approve the release of the drug thalidomide in the United States.
Marsh said Kelsey’s research was pivotal to all mothers.
“It really changed the mind set of doctors, gynecologists and pregnant women. Because there had been this belief, basically by the medical profession, that the womb was almost like a safe and that it didn’t really matter too much what a mother ingested or ate or drank or anything, the fetus would develop as it would regardless.”
In the Cowichan Valley, Frances Kelsey Secondary is named in her honour.
She was also given the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Kennedy and had an asteroid was named after her.
Kelsey now lives in Baltimore in her 90’s; she only retired three years ago.
The ceremony will take place at VIU June 5., and they hope that either Kelsey's daughter or grandson will be attending in her place.
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