Dr. Rowena Spencer will celebrate her 90th birthday on July 3, 2012. She was one of the first women in the country to specialize in pediatric surgery, which she practiced in New Orleans from 1953 to 1984. She then devoted a decade to research on conjoined twins, producing a substantial medical text.
In 1947, she received an M.D. from Johns Hopkins, where she was also the first woman surgical intern. She pursued additional training in surgery and pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Tulane and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Charles A. Fishkin, a former patient of Dr. Spencer, talks with her about her life and career.
What has been the most satisfying part of your work?
Holding the babies. I love babies more than a mule can kick.
What would you like to be remembered for?
That I have been able to convince people that pediatric surgery is a necessary and viable specialty.
On the field of pediatric surgery:
I enjoyed every minute of surgery. I love the field. I loved taking care of babies.
On communicating with babies:
They know a great deal more than you think they do. They know ...