EWHP Database

Gladys Dick

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SignificanceGladys Henry Dick was a physician and medical researcher who spent the majority of her professional career conducting research on childhood infectious diseases. Born in Pawnee City, Nebraska in 1881, Dick attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she earned a Bachelor of Science in zoology in 1900. Shortly thereafter, Dick entered the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and graduated with a Doctor of Medicine in 1907. Following her graduation, Dick worked as an intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital and briefly studied in Berlin before moving to Chicago in 1911 to be near her family. In Chicago, Dick began working at the University of Chicago where she studied kidney pathology and the etiology of scarlet fever with Dr. George F. Dick. The two married in 1914 and settled in Evanston where Gladys worked briefly as a pathologist at Evanston Hospital before joining her husband on the staff of the John McCormick Institute for Infectious Diseases (rededicated as the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research in 1943). At the McCormick Institute, Dick and her husband continued their study of scarlet fever. In 1923, after more than a decade of research, the couple successfully identified the bacterium that caused the disease. Over the course of the next year, they developed a skin test (known as the Dick test) to determine susceptibility to scarlet fever as well as a toxin and antitoxin for the prevention and treatment of the disease. These innovations were widely used across the US and Europe until the introduction of antibiotics for the treatment of streptococcal infections in the 1940s. Over the course of the next 25 years, Dick maintained her interest in child welfare, serving as a member of the board of directors and medical advisory staff at the Cradle, a private adoption agency in Evanston. During her time at the Cradle, Dick devised what became known as the Dick Aseptic Nursery Technique whereby strict sterilization and aseptic procedures were implemented to prevent cross infection among infants. Upon her retirement in 1953, Dick moved to Palo Alto, California with her husband. She died in nearby Menlo Park in 1963 at the age of 81.