Pioneer clinician Dr. Nell Hollinger dies in Carson City
A pioneer in the clinical sciences, Dr. Nell Hollinger, 97, was remembered Thursday as a role model and a world traveler who explored the human condition.
Hollinger died Tuesday at Carson Healthcare in Carson City.
A professor of public health from 1945 to 1970 at the University of California, Berkeley, she played a pivotal role in the development of beta-hemolytic streptolysin, the first meaningful test mechanism for the identification of the clinical syndrome, rheumatic fever.
These strep-mitigated infections cause severe heart-valve problems in 2-3 percent of its victims and were the leading cause of death in school-age children 50 years ago.
Hollinger earned her doctorate in physiology from Stanford University in 1944 and was licensed as a bioanalyst clinical laboratory director in California in 1931, but there was much more to her, according to friend Kate Schultz.
“She had a wonderful sense of humor,” she said. “She was vibrant and forceful, encouraging young women to pursue higher education and careers in science. In her later years, she was active in the Soroptimists, which encourages the education of young women and she was a wonderful role model for my daughter, who pursued graduate work in chemistry at Berkeley. I feel Nell was instrumental in her decision.”
Born April 18, 1905 in Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory, she was the daughter of Charles Frances, a telegrapher with the Santa Fe Railroad and Mary Malone Hollinger. She attended schools in New Mexico and graduated from high school in San Luis Obispo, Calif., before earning her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. Her sister, Lucile “Holly” Krikac of San Jose, Calif., is 95.
She served the clinical laboratory profession in countless legislative efforts, contributing to the crafting of many of California’s present clinical laboratory laws and regulations.
“Dr. Hollinger is warmly recognized for those rare qualities found, happily, in an educator who is at once a good listener, an empathetic fellow professional and a creative scientist,” said California Sen. Henry J. Mello in a 1995 tribute.
Hollinger was active in professional societies, including the American Society of Microbiology and the American Association of Clinical Chemists and the American Association of University Women.
After retirement, Hollinger became a world traveler, exploring Russia, China and tracing the Amazon to its source.
“It wasn’t frivolous travel,” Schultz said. “She was deeply interested in how people lived and public health issues. Very early in her travels, she went to China, floating in small boats up tributaries where no foreign travelers had been for decades.”
Until recently, Hollinger maintained homes in both Carson City and Monterey, Calif.
“She started living in Monterey when she was 90. She needed to be near her close associates, but they all died,” Schultz said. “She was independent to the end. The people she came in contact with were amazed. We had wonderful conversations about politics and many other issues.”
Memorial contributions can be made to the Stanford University School of Medicine Scholarship Fund.
Hollinger’s ashes will be scattered at sea. Walton’s Funeral Home is in charge of the services.