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Marian W. Ropes MD 19031994

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Number 6 , June 1995, p 866
0 1995, American College of Rheumatology
Marian W. Ropes, MD, 1903-1994
Dr. Marian Ropes died on Christmas Eve 1994.
She was the first woman admitted to a medical residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the
only woman to serve as ]?resident of the American
Rheumatism AssociatiodAmerican College of Rheumatology .
Born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1903, Dr.
Ropes recalled that one of her first exposures to
medicine was helping to care for small children left ill
and homeless by the great fire in that town in 1913. She
graduated with an AB degree in chemistry from Smith
College and earned an MS degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1926. She then worked
as a laboratory technician for Dr. Joseph Aub at the
Massachusetts General Hospital before deciding to
pursue a career in medicine:.Because Harvard Medical
School did not accept women, she went to Johns
Hopkins. After graduating in 1931, she applied to be
the first woman intern on the Medical Service at the
Massachusetts General Hospital but was turned down.
After serving her internship at Johns Hopkins, she was
appointed by Dr. James Howard Means, then Chief of
the Medical Service at the Massachusetts General
Hospital, to be its first woman resident.
In 1930, Dr. Walter Bauer was asked by Dr.
Means to undertake the study of arthritis, as the result
of a bequest “for the study of diseases causing deformities” in memory of Dr. Robert Lovett, an orthopedic surgeon who had treated Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Dr. Bauer asked Dr. Ropes to join his new unit. Her
first paper with Dr. Bauer, entitled “Chemical and
Physical Characteristics of Synovial Fluid Mucin,”
was read to the American Physiological Society in
1935. Dr. Ropes continued studies on the character of
synovial fluid in various diseases over the next 20
years and in 1958, with Dr. Bauer, authored a book,
Synoviul Fluid Changes in Joint Diseuse. This stillvaluable reference describes the analysis of over 1,500
synovial fluid samples from patients with 21 different
In subsequent years, one of Dr. Ropes’ major
interests was systemic lulpus erythematosus. A book
describing the course of SLE with reference to the
patients she had treated was published in 1976.
Dr. Ropes was concerned about the impact of
an illness on every aspect of a person’s life. She
believed strongly in the value of rest in the management of rheumatic disease but also strove to convince
her patients that anything is possible if you try.
In 1964, Marian Ropes was elected President of
the American Rheumatism Association (now the
American College of Rheumatology). She was a
staunch advocate for the independence of that organization and opposed its brief merger with the Arthritis
Foundation. Nevertheless, she gave many years of
service to both the national organization and the
Massachusetts chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.
Other contributions to rheumatology included her participation in formulating the American College of
Rheumatology’s diagnostic criteria for rheumatoid arthritis and for SLE.
Throughout most of her life, starting in college,
Dr. Ropes was an enthusiastic camper and hiker. She
and her sister owned an old farmhouse in Maine from
which she hiked in summer and skied in winter as
often as her work allowed. The annual winter weekend
at the Ropes’ farm is a vivid memory for scores of
Massachusetts General Hospital Lovett Unit associates from all over the world. She was a member of the
Appalachian Mountain Club and in 1948 married another member, Andrew Fielding, a widower with two
teenage children. Together they were, for many years,
responsible for selecting the site for the Appalachian
Mountain Club’s August Camp and overseeing its
Dr. Ropes’ stepson, stepdaughter, and five
grandchildren, one a physician, survive her. The memories they described at her memorial service were of
the enthusiasm, optimism, and “can do” attitude that
marked all she undertook.
Among the honors Dr. Ropes received were a
Doctor of Sciences degree from her alma mater, Smith
College, and, in 1959, for Medical Woman of the Year,
the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, named for the first
woman physician trained in America.
John A . Mills, MD
Boston, MA
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