Margaret Billingham, MD
Margaret Billingham, MD, was a founder of the field of cardiac transplantation pathology who developed the “Billingham’s criteria” that doctors still use to grade heart transplant rejection.
As director of cardiac pathology emeritus and professor of pathology emeritus at the Stanford University Medical Center, she left behind a curriculum vitae spanning 50 years and more than 50 pages. Best known for her work in the field of pathology of cardiac transplant rejection, she also made major contributions to research into the toxicity of the chemotherapy drug adriamycin and the development of heart biopsy techniques.
In 1966, as a pathology resident and postdoctoral fellow in surgical pathology at Stanford, she impressed colleagues with her efficiency and interest in cardiac pathology. It was an era of excitement in that field—Norman Shumway, MD, PhD, would perform the first successful heart transplant in the United States at Stanford in 1968—and Billingham became interested in the pathology of cardiac transplant rejection. Along with visiting scientist Philip Caves, MD, she developed methods of diagnosing transplant rejection from tiny snippets of heart tissue. She would carry on that work through her appointment as an assistant professor of cardiac pathology in 1975, associate professor of pathology in 1981 and professor of pathology in 1988.
Dr. Billingham became the first female president of the ISHLT in 1990. She was honored with the ISHLT Lifetime Achievement Award on April 21, 2010 at the ISHLT 30th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in Chicago, IL, USA.