reed sternberg

Happy Women Physicians Day!

I owe an incalculable debt to all the amazing women who came before me and paved my path. 

A selection of my personal heroes, in order of their birth year: 

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in America. 

Dr. Dorthy Reed Mendenhall, the woman who discovered Hodgkin’s Disease is not in fact a type of TB by discovering the eponymous Reed-Sternberg cell. 

Dr. Helen B. Taussig, pioneer in the field of pediatric cardiology despite her considerable hearing loss. 

Dr. Gisella Perl, a Jewish gynecologist who was interned at Auschwitz and saved the lives of hundreds of women through great determination and sacrifice.

Dr. Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist who developed the Apgar Score we all know and love, improving mother and infant mortality rate in America by pushing obstetricians to do better. 

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, the Canadian pharmacologist and physician who blocked the approval of thalidomide by the FDA and thus prevented a potentially massive wave of birth defects in the US. 

 Dr. Joycelyn Elders, first African American female Surgeon General of the United States, who never shied away from controversial topics like drug legalization or human sexuality if she believed it would improve the overall health of the nation. 

Reed–Sternberg cells are different giant cells found with light microscopy in biopsies from individuals with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They are usually derived from B lymphocytes, classically considered crippled germinal center B cells, meaning they have not undergone hypermutation to express their antibody. Seen against a sea of B cells, they give the tissue a moth-eaten appearance. 

Reed–Sternberg cells are large and are either multinucleated or have a bilobed nucleus with prominent eosinophilic inclusion-like nucleoli (thus resembling an “owl’s eye” appearance). Reed–Sternberg cells are CD30 and CD15 positive, usually negative for CD20 and CD45. The presence of these cells is necessary in the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma – the absence of Reed–Sternberg cells has very high negative predictive value. They can also be found in reactive lymphadenopathy (such as infectious mononucleosis, carbamazepine associated lymphadenopathy) and very rarely in other types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas.