On, Alumnae: Helen Dickie

Dickie, pictured in 1974, played a leading role in treating tuberculosis throughout Wisconsin. Submitted photo

When Helen Dickie ’35, MD’37 joined the UW medical school faculty in 1943, tuberculosis was still a threat. Dickie worked tirelessly to detect and treat the disease until it was largely eradicated on campus. She also led efforts to treat TB throughout Wisconsin.

Dickie grew up on a Wisconsin farm and graduated first in her UW medical school class in 1937. During her four decades on the faculty, she became nationally known for her work on pulmonary diseases and headed the school’s pulmonary unit for 10 years.

She helped identify a disease among Wisconsin farmers dubbed “farmer’s lung,” which she and colleague John Rankin eventually learned was caused by exposure to moldy, fermented hay. They devised a method to prevent the condition.

As one of the medical school’s only tenured female members, Dickie was outspoken about the need to hire more women. In 1974, she was named a master of the American College of Physicians, and in 1983 she became one of the first two women to receive the UW’s Medical Alumni Citation. In honor of her work, the Wisconsin chapter of the American College of Physicians created the Helen Dickie Woman of the Year award.

In 1983, Dickie retired to her Madison home with her twin sister, Ruth, a former professor and UW Hospital food services director.

As part of the On Wisconsin women’s issue, see other UW alumnae you oughta know.

Published in the Summer 2019 issue

Tags: Alumni, Health and medicine

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