Mabel L. Purkerson, MD
Mabel L. Purkerson, MD, HS ’61, professor emerita of medicine at Washington University, has made continual and lasting contributions to the School of Medicine community as a physician-scientist, advocate for students and women in science, and medical historian.
Purkerson’s close relationship with Washington University goes back 50 years. After completing her residency and fellowship training in pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, she joined the School of Medicine faculty as an instructor in pediatrics in 1961. She pursued her interest in nephrology as a member of a prestigious research group, including renal division director Neal S. Bricker, MD, Saulo Klahr, MD, and Eduardo Slatopolsky, MD. With her colleagues, she performed seminal investigations on the metabolic, physiologic, and structural alterations that accompany the decline in kidney function in chronic renal disease.
Purkerson was appointed an instructor in medicine in 1966 and an assistant professor the following year. From 1971 to 1972 she was a U.S. Public Health Service Special Fellow at the Department of Anatomy, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She became a professor at Washington University in 1989.
Purkerson assumed several administrative positions at Washington University, serving as associate dean for curriculum and associate dean for academic projects. Purkerson also was a founder and served as president of Women in Nephrology, a group associated with the American Society of Nephrology. In all of these roles, she provided invaluable counsel to genera- tions of men and women as they embarked on their medical careers. She became a professor emerita of medicine in 1998.
Since her retirement, she has been an advocate for the Archives and Rare Books collection of the Bernard Becker Medical Library. She is compiling material for a history of the School of Medicine in the 20th century and played a key role in creating a historical book commemorating the centennial of the Department of Medicine. Recently, she was instrumental in the establishment of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Distinguished Professorship in the History of Medicine, currently held by noted historian Kenneth M. Ludmerer, MD.
Purkerson received her bachelor’s degree from Erskine College in 1951 and her medical degree from the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston in 1956.
The Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association is pleased to present its Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Purkerson.