In her journey as a research physician from Australia to London and then to Boston Children’s Hospital, where she was pathologist-in-chief, Dr. Lynne M. Reid found that gender bias often loomed as her biggest obstacle.
“At times, one was conscious of resistance. It was considered inappropriate for a woman to pursue a career,” she said in an interview for the National Institutes of Health’s Changing the Face of Medicine series. “Part-time work, or the role of the school physician, was considered more appropriate, especially for married women. Occasionally some colleagues would try to undermine one’s work.”
Undeterred, she became an internationally known researcher in thoracic medicine and broke ground in some of her roles.
“From early on, as I advanced my career, I wanted to make the playing field more even for women. This attitude was by no means universal even among women. It is good to see that, in general, support is stronger now,” she said in the Changing the Face of Medicine interview.
“Fortunately, there are some men who are secure enough in themselves not to resent a woman for being successful in their profession,” she added. “On the other hand, there are those who have trouble with it and this can be unpleasant or difficult.”
Despite those challenges, her career and her work drew wide recognition and praise, and many honors.
In 1991, the American Thoracic Society awarded her the Edward Livingston Trudeau Medal, which honors “lifelong major contributions to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of lung disease through leadership in research, education, or clinical care.”
In presenting the medal, Dr. Warren W. Zapol, anesthetist-in-chief emeritus at Massachusetts General Hospital, said Dr. Reid had expanded “our definition of a great physician/scientist.”
He said that “her research knows no boundaries,” encompassing some 500 publications that “ranged across the entire spectrum of human lung disease.”
In addition, Zapol said, “Lynne has consistently been 20 years ahead of her time in research.”
Dr. Reid arrived in Boston in 1976 after being recruited from England, where she had been the first dean of the Cardiothoracic Institute at London University.
She also had been the first woman to achieve the rank of professor in experimental pathology in England.
At the time that Dr. Reid moved to Harvard Medical School, where she was the S. Burt Wolbach professor of pathology, many of the scientists who had worked for her in London were women.
“And they ran the labs, which was very unusual because at that time, mostly men ran labs,” said Rosemary Jones, a retired associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School who was among the scientists Dr. Reid brought with her from London.
Dr. Reid was recruited to Children’s and to the medical school at a time when the institutions were seeking to bring women into the institutions’ upper ranks. Not long before she moved to Boston from London, Dr. Mary Ellen Avery was recruited from McGill University in Montreal, and became the first woman to serve as physician-in-chief at Children’s.
Dr. Reid “was a wonderful recruitment, if you will, to the Children’s Hospital and to Harvard Medical School,” said Dr. Frederick Lovejoy, associate physician-in-chief at Children’s.
“She was really a wonderful human being,” he said. “She was not only a distinguished academician, but she was welcoming and wanted to teach young people about pathology.”
Lynne McArthur Reid was born in Melbourne on Nov. 12, 1923.
“From the age of about 6 or 7 I wanted to be a doctor,” she said in the Changing the Face of Medicine interview. “As a child, I experienced a visit to a hospital as a strange and intriguing experience. My father had received a bad wound to his right arm during World War I, but fortunately his arm was saved. So as children we played nurses. Being the elder of his two daughters, it was I who played the doctor.”
Her ancestors were from Scotland, she wrote in an academic journal in 1994, and " ‘You must be able to earn your own living’ was the only requirement from my parents.”
For a time the family lived in England, leaving in the early part of World War II and visiting New York City in 1940. “I attended the World’s Fair and went across Canada by train,” she wrote.
Back in Australia, she received her medical degree from the University of Melbourne.
“My parents were important in helping me to become a physician, though neither of them were doctors,” she said in the Changing the Face of Medicine interview. “They supported my wish — although at school in England it was not considered quite right for a girl. We moved to Australia just before I entered medical school and here it was more widely accepted — perhaps because World War II had begun.”
Beginning her career in her homeland, she became the first pathologist to receive a grant from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia.
After moving to England in 1951 to begin working at London University, she was the first pathologist to become an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists.
For a quarter century, Dr. Reid also was the only woman who belonged to the Fleischner Society, an interdisciplinary organization for thoracic radiology.
“There’s this glorious picture of about 25 men — and Lynne sitting in the middle,” Jones said.
In 2016, the Massachusetts Medical Society presented Dr. Reid with the Women Physician Leadership Award.
Colleagues who nominated her said that she “will go down in history as a women pioneer whose courage and determination opened the door for women to be appointed to leadership positions and advance women leadership not only in the United States but around the world.”
At Harvard Medical School, Dr. Reid had chaired the Joint Committee on the Status of Women.
“She was not only an expert, obviously in her own field, but she took interest in other women’s emerging careers,” said Dr. Eleanor Shore, a former dean for faculty affairs at Harvard Medical School who is senior consultant to the office for clinical and academic programs.
Shore added that or 20 years, Dr. Reid also provided funds annually for one of the fellowships that are now called the Eleanor and Miles Shore Faculty Development Awards at the medical school.
“She put her resources where her heart and her mind were,” Shore said. “She was a treasured colleague for me.”
Dr. Reid leaves no immediate survivors. A memorial gathering will be announced.
“She was extraordinary,” Zapol said in an interview.
In his Trudeau Medal presentation, he noted that Dr. Reid “always kept her mind on patients, always studying the mysterious puzzle of human lung disease.”
Through her collaborations as a researcher and writer, and through her teaching, he added, Dr. Reid’s influence can be seen in the field throughout the world.”
“If medical researchers make progress today,” Zapol said, “it is because we can stand upon the shoulders of giants who can see into the future, giants such as Lynne McArthur Reid.”
Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.