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Women in Medicine and Science at Upstate

This guide provides information on female pioneers associated with Upstate and its predecessor institutions who left lasting impacts on medicine and science. Please check back regularly as we will continue to add influential women to this guide.

Marie Sullivan Blackman MD

Written by Rae-Ellen Kavey

Rare is the physician who provides unique health care of the highest quality while simultaneously educating and inspiring hundreds of young physicians: Marie Sullivan Blackman was that individual.  Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1929, Marie moved to Saranac Lake whilMarie Sullivan Blackman MDe she was in elementary school after her father was diagnosed with tuberculosis.  Growing up in the town that housed the world-famous Trudeau Sanatorium, Marie was immersed in a culture devoted to medical problems and their potential solutions; this inspired her own interest in becoming a doctor.  She graduated from Hartwick College in 1951 and from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1957. All her post-graduate training was completed at Upstate Medical Center, a rotating internship from 1957-58 followed by a residency in pediatrics from 1958-1960.  Pediatric cardiology was a very young specialty in 1960 when Marie first encountered George Husson, the founder of the pediatric cardiology program at Upstate.  Fascinated by the unique combination of anatomy and physiology inherent in the care of children with congenital heart disease, Marie became the first fellow in that program in 1960, only one year after pediatric cardiology was certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the first pediatric subspecialty. In 1962, she joined Dr. Husson as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiology in the Department of Pediatrics at Upstate Medical Center.

This is where her greatness emerged.  When she began, the pediatric cardiology program was small but from the time she arrived, pediatricians began referring children with possible heart disease from throughout central New York, with the catchment area extending from northern Pennsylvania to the Canadian border. The original clinic was held in the basement of Memorial Hospital and was legendary for long rows of families lining the halls from early morning to late afternoon. Patients were a combination of babies with critical heart defects, survivors of acute rheumatic fever, and healthy children with innocent heart murmurs: Dr. Blackman saw them all.  Famous for her encyclopedic recall of every detail about every patient – no easy feat since she saw more than 5000 patients every year – she had a rapid, insightful approach that identified the critical problem for each patient and resulted in an effective and efficient plan to address it.  Despite the hectic nature of the 5 weekly all-day clinics, she welcomed referring doctors, medical students and residents who wanted to learn about cardiology.  At that time, pediatric residents had a mandatory month-long rotation in cardiology; Dr. Blackman used that time to teach the basics of the auscultatory exam, ECG interpretation, and initial cardiac diagnosis to literally hundreds of pediatricians-in-training.

Pediatric cardiology is also an inpatient specialty because the most critical patients present in distress as newborns who require immediate intervention.  In 1963, invasive cardiac catheterization was the primary technique for accurate diagnosis, and all catheterizations were done using a cutdown on the femoral vessels.  Dr. Blackman was famous for the speed and skill she brought to this technically challenging procedure and for the accuracy of her angiographic interpretation.  Surgery for congenital heart defects was in its infancy and after catheterization revealed the diagnosis, Dr. Husson or Dr. Blackman went to the operating room with every patient.  Due in large part to her efforts and expertise, the cardiac surgery program grew from a small number of in-house cases and a large number of referrals to Babies Hospital in NYC to an all Upstate pediatric cardiac surgical program by the 1970s.  Again, Dr. Blackman led the way in educating the whole Upstate community about congenital heart defects and the surgical options to address them.

After Dr. Husson’s untimely death in 1976, Marie shouldered all the responsibilities of the Division.  Nothing exemplifies her commitment to patient care more than the fact that she carried on alone for the next 5 months, on call every night, without cancelling a single appointment or procedure.  As Director of Pediatric Cardiology, she ultimately increased the division to 5 pediatric cardiologists over the next 12 years, sustaining an exceptionally high standard of care as the specialty continued to rapidly evolve.  As Professor of Pediatrics at Upstate Medical University and Chief of Pediatrics at Crouse Hospital from 1975-1988, Dr. Blackman held many leadership positions within the department and in both hospitals.  She was an active member of the Upstate Chapter of the American Heart Association and the Onondaga County Medical Society.  She was the sole upstate pediatric representative on the New York State Cardiac Advisory Committee from 1976 to 1988.  From 1981 to 1984, Dr. Blackman served on a Special Advisory Committee on Pediatric Heart Transplantation at the National Institutes of Health.  She also shared her expertise beyond the medical center in several dozen articles in the medical literature.  

But it was Marie herself, her character, integrity and knowledge that best exemplify her reputation as a consummate physician.  She brought her forthright approach, extensive experience and laser sharp attention to detail to every patient encounter. Her lifelong commitment to education resulted in superb training for scores of pediatricians, pediatric residents and a core group of pediatric cardiologists.  Her retirement celebration in 1988 was attended by more than 250 colleagues in pediatric cardiology and cardiac surgery from around the country along with pediatricians and health professionals from the greater Syracuse community. The Department of Pediatrics named the pediatric ward at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital in her honor. 

At a time when few women held leadership positions in academic medicine, Marie Blackman led a challenging new specialty from obscurity to prominence in the Upstate Medical Center and the surrounding community.  She is a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. 

Resources on Marie Sullivan Blackman MD

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Dr. Marie Sullivan Blackman and her colleagues


Bibliography - Publications

Arteriotomy for catheterization of the left side of the heart in children.

Husson Gs, Blackman Ms.

N Engl J Med. 1963 Mar 7;268:545-6.


Benign infundibular pulmonary stenosis with secondary dilatation of the main pulmonary artery.

Husson Gs, Blackman Ms, Riemenschneider P, Berne As.

N Engl J Med. 1963 Aug 22;269:394-8.


Isolated Congenital Mitral Insufficiency.

Husson Gs, Blackman Ms, Riemenschneider P, Berne As.

J Pediatr. 1964 Feb;64:248-59.


Aortic stenosis with marked right ventricular hypertrophy.

Husson GS, Blackman MS.

Am J Cardiol. 1966 Feb;17(2):273-7.


Familial congenital bundle branch system disease.

Husson GS, Blackman MS, Rogers MC, Bharati S, Lev M.

Am J Cardiol. 1973 Sep 7;32(3):365-9.


Growth failure with pericardial constriction. The syndrome of mulibrey nanism.

Voorhess ML, Husson GS, Blackman MS.

Am J Dis Child. 1976 Oct;130(10):1146-8.


Congenital, complete heart block in the infant of a woman with collagen vascular disease. A case report.

Kosmetatos N, Blackman MS, Elrad H, Aubry RH.

J Reprod Med. 1979 Apr;22(4):213-6.


Referral patterns in pediatric cardiology.

Post EM, Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE, Blackman MS.

N Y State J Med. 1979 Jun;79(7):1015-7.


Congenital atresia of the left coronary ostium and hypoplasia of the left main coronary artery.

Byrum CJ, Blackman MS, Schneider B, Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE.

Am Heart J. 1980 Mar;99(3):354-8.


Common pulmonary vein atresia without anomalous pulmonary venous connection.

DeLise CT, Schneider B, Blackman MS.

Pediatr Radiol. 1979 Jul 24;8(3):195-7.


Hypertensive mechanisms in coarctation of the aorta. Further studies of the renin-angiotensin system.

Parker FB Jr, Farrell B, Streeten DH, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM, Anderson GH Jr.

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1980 Oct;80(4):568-73.


Detection of dysrhythmia in pediatric patients with mitral valve prolapse.

Kavey RE, Sondheimer HM, Blackman MS.

Circulation. 1980 Sep;62(3):582-7.


Absent proximal left main coronary artery in association with pulmonary atresia.

Blackman MS, Schneider B, Sondheimer HM.

Br Heart J. 1981 Oct;46(4):449-51.


Computerized axial tomography of the chest for visualization of "absent" pulmonary arteries.

Sondheimer HM, Oliphant M, Schneider B, Kavey RE, Blackman MS, Parker FB Jr.

Circulation. 1982 May;65(5):1020-5.


Incidence and severity of chronic ventricular dysrhythmias after repair of tetralogy of Fallot.

Kavey RE, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM.

Am Heart J. 1982 Mar;103(3):342-50.


Phenytoin therapy for ventricular arrhythmias occurring late after surgery for congenital heart disease.

Kavey RE, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM.

Am Heart J. 1982 Oct;104(4 Pt 1):794-8.


Preoperative and postoperative renin levels in coarctation of the aorta.

Parker FB Jr, Streeten DH, Farrell B, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM, Anderson GH Jr.

Circulation. 1982 Sep;66(3):513-4.


Fatal over-distention of an atrioseptostomy catheter.

Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE, Blackman MS.

Pediatr Cardiol. 1982;2(3):255-7.


Quinidine interaction with anticonvulsants.

Rodgers GC, Blackman MS.

Drug Intell Clin Pharm. 1983 Nov;17(11):819-20.


Two-dimensional echocardiographic assessment of infective endocarditis in children.

Kavey RE, Frank DM, Byrum CJ, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM, Bove EL.

Am J Dis Child. 1983 Sep;137(9):851-6.


The influence of pulmonary insufficiency on ventricular function following repair of tetralogy of Fallot. Evaluation using radionuclide ventriculography.

Bove EL, Byrum CJ, Thomas FD, Kavey RE, Sondheimer HM, Blackman MS, Parker FB Jr.

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1983 May;85(5):691-6.


Subclavian-pulmonary artery shunts with polytetrafluorethylene interposition grafts.

Bove EL, Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE, Byrum CJ, Blackman MS, Parker FB Jr.

Ann Thorac Surg. 1984 Jan;37(1):88-91.


Ventricular arrhythmias and biventricular dysfunction after repair of tetralogy of Fallot.

Kavey RE, Thomas FD, Byrum CJ, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM, Bove EL.

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1984 Jul;4(1):126-31.


Pulmonary hemodynamics and maintenance of palliation following polytetrafluoroethylene shunts for cyanotic congenital heart disease.

Bove EL, Sondheimer HM, Byrum CJ, Kavey RE, Blackman MS.

Am Heart J. 1984 Aug;108(2):366-9.


Results with the two-patch technique for repair of complete atrioventricular septal defect.

Bove EL, Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE, Byrum CJ, Blackman MS.

Ann Thorac Surg. 1984 Aug;38(2):157-61.


Ventricular arrhythmias and mitral valve prolapse in childhood.

Kavey RE, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM, Byrum CJ.

J Pediatr. 1984 Dec;105(6):885-90.


Unequal cardiac care for children with Down's syndrome.

Sondheimer HM, Byrum CJ, Blackman MS.

Am J Dis Child. 1985 Jan;139(1):68-70.


Improved right ventricular function following late pulmonary valve replacement for residual pulmonary insufficiency or stenosis.

Bove EL, Kavey RE, Byrum CJ, Sondheimer HM, Blackman MS, Thomas FD.

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1985 Jul;90(1):50-5.


Hemodynamic and electrophysiologic results of the Senning procedure for transposition of the great arteries.

Byrum CJ, Bove EL, Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE, Blackman MS.

Am J Cardiol. 1986 Jul 1;58(1):138-42.


Arterial repair for simple and complex forms of transposition of the great arteries.

Bove EL, Byrum CJ, Kavey RE, Sondheimer HM, Dick M 3rd, Behrendt DM, Blackman MS.

J Cardiovasc Surg (Torino). 1987 Jan-Feb;28(1):54-60.


Postoperative functional assessment of a modified surgical approach to repair of tetralogy of Fallot.

Kavey RE, Bove EL, Byrum CJ, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM.

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1987 Apr;93(4):533-8.


Sinus node shift after the Senning procedure compared with the Mustard procedure for transposition of the great arteries.

Byrum CJ, Bove EL, Sondheimer HM, Kavey RE, Blackman MS.

Am J Cardiol. 1987 Aug 1;60(4):346-50.


The modified Blalock-Taussig shunt: analysis of adequacy and duration of palliation.

Bove EL, Kohman L, Sereika S, Byrum CJ, Kavey RE, Blackman MS, Sondheimer HM, Rosenthal A.

Circulation. 1987 Sep;76(3 Pt 2):III19-23.


Atenolol therapy for exercise-induced hypertension after aortic coarctation repair.

Kavey RE, Cotton JL, Blackman MS.

Am J Cardiol. 1990 Nov 15;66(17):1233-6.


The changing pattern of infective endocarditis in childhood.

Awadallah SM, Kavey RE, Byrum CJ, Smith FC, Kveselis DA, Blackman MS.

Am J Cardiol. 1991 Jul 1;68(1):90-4.