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In Memoriam: Dr. Wethers helped achieve national sickle cell screening :

April 10, 2019

Doris L. Wethers, M.D., FAAP, of New York, died Jan. 28 of complications from a stroke at age 91.

Dr. Wethers helped connect the importance of early detection of sickle cell disease to survival rates and raised awareness of its genetic link to a range of ethnicities, including African-American, Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern and Asian Indian.

The third African-American woman to graduate from Yale School of Medicine, she completed an internship at the District of Columbia General Hospital in Washington, D.C., where she was mentored by Roland B. Scott, M.D., FAAP, a pioneer in sickle cell disease research. She completed one year of residency in pediatrics at Bellevue Hospital followed by a one-year residency and one-year chief residency at Kings County Hospital Center.

In 1975, Dr. Wethers successfully advocated for New York state to screen all newborns for sickle cell disease. She saw numerous patients with sickle cell while working in the sickle cell clinic at Sydenham Hospital and started sickle cell clinics at Arthur C. Logan Memorial Hospital (Knickerbocker Hospital) and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute selected her to participate in a Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease two years later. Dr. Wethers conducted clinical research and tracked patients before diagnosis. At the time, other researchers had discovered penicillin’s effectiveness in reducing pneumococcal infections and mortality. (The survival rate increased again after the pneumococcal vaccine was introduced in 2000.)

With an improved understanding of early detection, the National Institutes of Health National Consensus Conference, and Dr. Wethers as chair, recommended sickle cell screening for all newborns in 1987. Nine years later, all states added the disease to the newborn screening panel.

Involved in AAP New York Chapter 3, District II leadership, she also served as chair of the Committee on Adoption and Foster Care and member of the Committee on Careers and Opportunities.

Dr. Wethers was director of pediatrics at Sydenham, Knickerbocker and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospitals and a pediatrician in the Health Insurance Plan of New York group.

Her husband, Garvall H. Booker, predeceased her, and she is survived by three sons and two grandchildren. Read her oral history at

Additional deaths

Stephen C. Copps Sr., M.D., FAAP, of La Crosse, Wis., died Dec. 11 at age 88.

Marilyn L. Cowger, M.D., FAAP, of Charlotte, N.C., died Jan. 17 at age 87.

Daniel A. Kramer, M.D., FAAP, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, died Jan. 17 from complications of lung disease at age 71.

John J. Mickell, M.D., FAAP, of Richmond, Va., died Dec. 17 at age 72.

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