Dr. Eleanor Delfs was a scholar and humanitarian who gave birth to a generation of obstetricians. Dr. Delfs joined the medical school in 1963. She was the first woman to become a full professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She was also the first Patrick J. and Margaret G. McMahon Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her reputation as an outstanding educator in obstetrics was already established by her work at Johns Hopkins University. At the age of 55, she had the courage and the foresight to leave a position that had given her an international reputation to start a new career.
As a clinical investigator, Dr. Delfs was a pioneer in the study of hCG, one of the first to establish the role of chorionic gonadatropin hormone in the assessment and management of hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma. Few obstetricians gave as much to each patient as did Eleanor Delfs. She stayed with her patients through most of their labor. She consoled and was the confidant to many women, including doctor’s wives and indigent patients. She was a woman whose very presence enhanced the quality of her surroundings. Dr. Eleanor Delfs died of ovarian cancer in 1977.
The Eleanor Delfs Lectureship for Pioneers serves as a means of permanently identifying the contributions of this outstanding woman and physician and debuted on May 11, 2011.