Marie (Molly) Valdes-Dapena


One of our past Presidents and Founding member of the Pediatric Pathology Club, Dr Marie (Molly) Valdes-Dapena passed away on September the 30th 2012. She was 91 years of age. Dr Valdes-Dapena was born on July 14, 1921 in Pottsville, PA. She obtained her medical degree at Temple University School of Medicine. Her maiden name was Marie (Molly) Brown before she married Dr Antonio Valdes-Dapena. She was usually referred to as Dr Dapena or Dr Molly. Dr Marie Valdes-Dapena had an illustrious career in Pediatric pathology and was the author of numerous publications, books and book chapters. She was on the editorial boards of many journals and was the recipient of awards and honors that would take pages to enumerate. She is best known for her pioneering work in the field of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and for the early studies seeking to learn more about this devastating condition. She was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National SIDS Foundation and earned her well-deserved title of "The First Lady of SIDS". To crown these staggering achievements, she somehow managed to raise and educate 11 children which is a feat that defies description. All her children have done well with three of them following in her profession as physicians. She is survived by her children, 21 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. I will refer you the excellent article on her by Drs. Daria Haust and Enid Gilbert-Barness that was published in Pediatric and Developmental Pathology, Vol9, 345-352, 2006 which can be accessed on line at the SPP web site. Drs Haust and Gilbert were two of her closest friends and the three of them often travelled and attended meetings together. They were affectionately known as the Three Graces. Alas there are just Two Graces now.

I was one of the very lucky persons to have had the honor of being trained at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia by Drs. Dapena and Arey, both Giants in a field of Giants. Dr Dapena was more than just a teacher and mentor. She was someone one could always turn to for advice and solace. She was one of the most organized persons I know and could always find time for anything that was needed. She was kind and generous and there were nearly always students and residents from other countries who would stay with the Dapenas till they could find housing. Her children were divided into 3 rotating teams that took over the household chores of cooking, washing, and cleaning, running the place with an efficiency that would be the envy of any corporation. She was very talented and managed to find time to sing in the Church Choir, participate in Recording for the Blind and be heavily involved in her children's school projects. At one of the Pediatric Resident Graduation parties, she brought the house down with her spot on imitation of one of our Hippie residents. (Yes, my training was a long time ago). Dr Laurie Naiman, the chief of Hematology who shared office space with Pathology, claims that she used to regularly cut his hair till he moved to California and had to pay to have that done. She was fiercely loyal and I have never known her to say an unkind word about anyone. She was eternally cheerful and nothing would get her down. She was truly the Unsinkable Molly Brown.

I am sure that all who knew or came in contact with her will miss her dearly. She was a gem of person who embodied the best aspects of our profession.

Cyril D'Cruz
Children's Hospital of New Jersey, Newark




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