Teresa J. Vietti (1927-2010)

Teresa J. Vietti
Teresa J. Vietti, early 1960s

Teresa J. Vietti and her identical twin sister Ardel were born on November 5, 1927 in Fort Worth, Texas. As the daughters of a physical chemist father, both were interested in science, and both became doctors. Teresa and Ardel received their undergraduate degrees from Rice University. Teresa Vietti went on to receive a medical degree from Baylor University College of Medicine in 1953. Ardel attended the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

The twin sisters also shared a desire to serve underprivileged populations in foreign lands. In 1960 Teresa Vietti spent six months in Ankara, Turkey as a visiting pediatrician, focusing on malnutrition and infectious disease. Her sister Ardel chose to become a medical missionary. After her residency, Ardel Vietti applied for foreign service with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and was certified for appointment to the Ban Me Thuot Leprosarium in Darloc Province, South Vietnam. Ardel Vietti worked as a medical missionary at the Leprosarium from November 1957 until May 30, 1962, when she was captured with two of her co-workers by a group of armed Viet Cong soldiers. The three were never rescued. Ardel Vietti is the only woman unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Teresa Vietti came to St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1953 for her pediatric training, followed by two years as a Hematology/Oncology Fellow in Detroit. She then served as director of the Hematology Laboratories at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Dallas. When she returned from Turkey in 1961, Vietti came back to St. Louis and joined the faculty of the Washington University School of Medicine as an assistant professor and rejoined the staff at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Teresa became an associate professor in 1965 and a full professor in 1972.

Teresa Vietti was a pioneer in the field of pediatric oncology as a scientist, clinician and educator. Her research interests were in sarcomas of soft tissue and bone and in acute nonlymphoblastic leukemia. For over four decades Vietti had been involved in clinical trials, new drug development, and the design of clinical drug trials. She had written over 200 peer-reviewed publications and 30 book chapters, as well as co-edited the oft-used reference text, Clinical Pediatric Oncology.

Vietti served as Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology from 1970 to 1986, and as the first chair of the national Pediatric Oncology Group from 1980 to 1993. She became professor emeritus of Pediatrics in 1998. Among her many honors are the UNICO Award (1976), the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology’s Distinguished Career Award (1994), the Leukemia Society of America’s Return of the Child Award (1999), and the American Cancer Society Spirit of Health Award (2001). Teresa Vietti died on January 25, 2010.