Jacquelin Perry Dies: Pioneering Polio Surgeon Passes Away At 94

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Dr. Jacquelin Perry, a world-class surgeon and the leading authority on post-polio syndrome, died Monday at her home in Downey, California. She was 94.

Perry’s death was announced by Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, where she was the Chief of the Pathokinesiology Service for 30 years.

“She was a giant, a revered figure in her field,” said Greg Waskul, executive director of the center’s foundation. “Dr. Perry was so creative and innovative. Most of the great doctors have one specialty, but she came up with many new theories and exercises to keep people moving.”

Born in Denver, Colorado, Perry moved to Los Angeles with her family as a young child. Jacquenlin said she dreamed of practicing medicine even as a youth.

“I knew at about age 10 that I wanted to be a doctor,” Dr. Perry said in 2000. “I read every medical book in the Los Angeles library.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in physical education at the University of California, Los Angeles, Perry joined the Army and trained to be a physical therapist, receiving a certificate from Walter Reed Army General Hospital in Washington, D.C.

As the first woman orthopedic surgeon to graduate from the University of California, San Francisco, Perry was one of the first 10 women to be certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

She joined the medical staff at Rancho Los Amigos in 1955 and shortly thereafter developed spinal fusion surgery to help paralyzed polio patients regain some movement.

In 1959 The Times honored Perry as the Woman of the Year in Science.

During her interview with the paper, she said:

“Most doctors go into medicine to save lives. I’m more interested in getting handicapped persons functioning again.”

Here is a video on polio:

In her later years, Dr. Perry acted as professor of surgery at USC’s medical school, where she established a scholarship for study of the human gait.

In 1996, the Jacquelin Perry Neuro-Trauma Institute and Rehabilitation Center at Rancho Los Amigos was dedicated in her honor. Her research into helping people with walking difficulties led to practices that are still used.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve never worked,” Perry told The Times in 1999. “I do what I like to do.”

The Los Angeles Times reports a celebration of Dr. Jacquelin Perry’s life will begin at 12pm March 22 in the Support Services Annex Building at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.