Letter to the Editor: Another Pioneering Woman to Celebrate

Dear Editor:

Dr. Margaret-Morgan-Lawrence (National Institutes of Health (NIH) photo archives)

I enjoyed reading the very valuable River Journal Partner Content article, “Women Leaders in Medicine: Pioneers in Promoting Public Health”, by Padmini Murthy.

There is one more pioneering woman leader in medicine whose name I would like to add, Margaret Morgan Lawrence. She was the first African-American woman in the United States to become both a pediatrician and a psychoanalyst.

Although she was an excellent student at Cornell University, she was denied admission to Cornell Medical School, because she was African-American. She persevered, and finally was admitted to the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. For 21 years she served at Harlem Hospital as director of the Therapeutic Developmental Nursery and as chief of the Developmental Psychiatry Service for Infants and Children.

She was a co-founder of Harlem Family Institute (HFI), a multi-cultural psychoanalytic training institute dedicated to providing psychoanalytic therapy to underserved communities, to children, families, and adults, first in Harlem, New York City, and expanding further, and to training aspiring psychoanalysts from diverse backgrounds. She served on the HFI Board until her death in 2019 at the age of 105.

She published two books in the 1970’s, The Mental Health Team in Schools, and Young Inner City Families: Development of Ego Strength Under Stress.

Merle Molofsky
Sleepy Hollow, NY

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