Stahlman, Mildred Thornton (1922-

 Digital Record
Identifier: 382
Stahlman, Mildred Thornton (1922-


  • 1951 - 2004

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Historical or Biographical Note

Mildred Thornton Stahlman was born on July 31, 1922 in Nashville, TN. Her father, James Stahlman, was the sole owner of the Nashville Banner. She made up her mind to become a physician at the age of 11, supposedly inspired by her many animals and pets. Mildred Stahlman graduated from Vanderbilt in 1943 and Vanderbilt Medical School in 1946. Dr. Stahlman interned at Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland and completed her residency at Children's Hospital of Boston. She then studied at the Karolinska Institute in Swenden and returned to Vanderbilt in 1951 as a pediatric cardiologist. In 1954 Elliot Newman invited her to work in Rollo Park's lab with the goal of defining normal newborn lung function. Dr. Stahlman received a grant on hyaline membrane disease in 1954.

In 1959, when Dr. Stahlman needed to re-apply for her grant, she included an additional proposal for a new nursery with modern equipment and with a laboratory attached. She received the $125,000 supplement to build a new nursery. Vanderbilt's NICU opened in mid-1961 with Dr. Stahlman, two fellows and a research-developed Monaghen ventilator iron lung. The first patient treated with HMD was in October of 1961. The child of a house officer, this patient was treated using the ventilator and survived. This was the first case in the world of a child being successfully treated for HMD using a ventilator. Dr. Stahlman's NICU was the first modern intensive care unit for the newborn in the United States. The unit she established became a model for newborn intensive care units as we know them today. In 1973 Dr. Stahlman organized the Angel Transport System which resulted int the transport of premature babies from 30 counties in TN to Vanderbilt.

Dr. Stahlman personally trained the nurses on the NICU unit, calling them nursing assistants instead of RNs. Dr. Stahlman has trained over 80 post-doctoral fellows who have gone on to become professors and heads of departments. Dr. Stahlman has published over 200 articles and remains active as a basic researcher today. Her research interests include basic lung cell physiology, hyaline membrane disease, surfactant, Vitamin A, neonatal pulmonary adaptation, fetal cardiopulmonary development, and growth factor hormone involvement in the lungs.

Dr. Mildred Stahlman has received many awards and honors, including the Virginia Apgar Award, the Thomas Jefferson Award, the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professorship, the Howland Award, the Vanderbilt Distinguished Alumna Award. Dr. Stahlman has also been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the Swedish Academy of Sciences. Dr. Mildred Stahlman is a truly distinguished woman who has accomplished much and touched many lives during her lifetime.

Language of Materials


General Physical Description note

- cubic feet


Photographs, newspaper clippings, scientific articles, student application photo, photo of Dr. Stahlman's portrait by Louise LeQuire, genealogical material about the Stahlman family.

Repository Details

Part of the VUMC Historical Images and Biographies Repository

Eskind Biomedical Library
2209 Garland Ave.
Nashville TN 37232


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