John Queenan, Rh disease pioneer
John T Queenan, MD, professor and chair emeritus, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, may be best known in the OB/GYN and fetal and perinatal medicine communities for his pioneering research on Rhesus (Rh) disease management and prevention. Because of that work and his innovations in clinical teaching, Contemporary OB/GYN is very proud that Dr Queenan is the journal’s founding editor.
Following are excerpts of a recent Contemporary OB/GYN interview with Dr. Queenan.
Contemporary OB/GYN: How did you become interested in Rh disease?
Dr Queenan: In the 1960s when I was a resident at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center, I became fascinated by the fact that Rh-immunized mothers faced a 50% chance of losing a totally normal baby because it was exposed to a hostile environment. At that time, Rh-alloimmunization accounted for approximately 6000 perinatal deaths in the United States, and I saw the opportunity to help address the problem by contributing to better understanding of the mechanisms of Rh alloimmunization as well as in the areas of diagnosis and therapy.
Contemporary OB/GYN: What do you consider some of the most striking aspects of the work you have been involved in that has almost completely eliminated deaths due to Rh disease?
Dr Queenan: From my perspective, I think it is remarkable and unique that the research was being done as an international collaboration and was simultaneously investigating issues surrounding diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Rh disease. Researchers from all over the world were working in these different areas. Then we would meet together to share our findings and exchange ideas.
Fetal medicine was very rudimentary at the time—we had no laboratory models for Rh disease and no ultrasound. Yet we made progress thanks to the cooperative effort among the researchers. Therefore, we saw rapid advancement from a time when we were evaluating Rh-immunized mothers only with history, physical exam, and measurement of Rh antibody titers to where we were performing amniocentesis, amniotic fluid Δ OD450 measurements, amniography, and were able to provide fetal treatment, beginning with intrauterine peritoneal transfusions.