Friday, June 16, 2017

Aphasia Awareness Month: Dr. Katharine McBride

As June is Aphasia Awareness Month, I note I recently submitted a chapter about aphasia to be published next year. Aphasia is the loss of acquired language abilities due to brain damage, such as stroke. Neuropsychologists are often called upon to determine the nature and severity of these changes to language functioning.

My contribution is a biography of Dr. Katharine McBride, a psychologist working with neurologist Dr. Theodore Weisenburg from 1929 through 1934. They created the first comprehensive aphasia testing battery that was based on the triad of: the use of psychometric tests, tests were standardized in format and scoring, and test performances included the comparative results of performances by healthy adults. McBride’s enduring contribution to aphasia assessment remains all the more exceptional as she started her role in this clinical research whilst still a graduate student.

Katharine McBride would leave psychological research to become the very successful fourth president of Bryn Mawr College (US), a position she held from 1942 through 1970. At the time of her naming in December 1941, she was one of the few women and, at 37 years of age, one of the youngest persons to become president of an American college or university. Her tenure was known for its promotion of diversity, equality of access, and equal rights across the spectrum of American society. Poet Marianne Moore’s poem about McBride calling her Bryn Mawr’s “creatively unarrogant president” remains a celebrated part of Bryn Mawr’s culture.

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