Sirridge was a fixture of the School of Medicine from its inception, serving as a founding docent and later as the school’s dean. Combined with her deep appreciation for medical humanities, she brought an approach to medicine that emphasized empathy and compassion for the patient, characteristics that are bedrocks of the school’s curriculum.
Sirridge was born and raised in Kingman, Kan., and felt that growing up in a small town provided a sense of personal freedom and helped her better understand and appreciate all kinds of people. Many of her strongest memories are linked to her life in the close-knit community of her childhood. As early as high school, she possessed a strong, natural interest in the study of science. She continued those studies at Kansas State University, graduating with a pre-medicine major at age 20. Sirridge earned her medical degree in 1944, graduating first in her class from the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
Medical school led to another very important development: Marjorie Spurrier met her future husband, William Sirridge. Just two years later, when informed that it was not acceptable to become pregnant while completing one’s residency program, Sirridge put aside her career to begin a family.
The growing family moved back to Kansas City, Kan., in late 1948 as Dr. William began his private practice and Dr. Marjorie found research opportunities at KU School of Medicine. She resumed her medical career in 1951, picking up where she left off by specializing in internal medicine and hematology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and the University of Kansas Medical Center.
During the 1950s and 1960s, in addition to raising her family, Dr. Sirridge concentrated on her medical specialty of hematology. It was a rapidly changing and exciting time scientifically as researchers were trying to find effective methods for treating blood diseases and disorders, such as leukemia, hemophilia and various types of thrombosis and anemia.
She consulted at the U.S. Veteran’s Hospital in Wadsworth, Kan., conducted laboratory research and treated private patients in Kansas City, Kan. She published her first book in 1967, “Laboratory Evaluation of Hemostasis and Thrombosis,” which has gone through three editions.
After working in private practice and serving on the faculty at the University of Kansas School of Medicine for more than a decade, Drs. Marjorie and William were recruited to serve as two of the three founding docents for the new UMKC School of Medicine when it opened in 1971. She spent the remainder of her career in numerous roles at the school.
She was highly active in health- and community-related activities boards. Among a long list of medical-related honors, Sirridge received the Alma Dea Morani, M.D. Renaissance Woman Award from the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine in 2010. Her civic efforts also were recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the Outstanding Kansas Citian and the Kansas City Career Woman of the Year awards.
While serving as a docent, Sirridge established the UMKC Program for Women in Medicine in 1983 to help female students and physicians succeed in a male-dominated system. Due in part to her influence, the UMKC School of Medicine boasts one of the highest rates of female students among the country’s co-educational medical schools.
When the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NLM) created a traveling exhibit in 2003 titled, “Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating American Women Physicians,” Sirridge was included as one of the pioneering women in medicine. The exhibit now exists online to honor the achievements of those women who excelled in their medical careers.
Believing deeply that it is important for doctors to have a good background and appreciation for literature, art and culture, Drs. Marjorie and William endowed the Office of Medical Humanities at the school in 1992. In this new role, she remained active in humanities programs and co-taught courses at UMKC until her retirement at age 90. She also loved the performing arts and was an active supporter of the Kansas City Lyric Opera, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the Kansas City Ballet.
Asked how she stood out and made a difference as a physician, Sirridge wrote in her NLM biography, “I genuinely care about patients. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of patient care.”
Sirridge was appointed dean of the medical school in 1997 and served in that role until 1999 when she again turned her focus to the medical humanities program. The School of Medicine honored her in 2005 with an appointment as a professor emerita.
In 2011, the Kansas University Women in Medicine and Science organization honored Sirridge by establishing the annual Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Excellence in Medicine and Science Award.
“There have been many ups and downs,” Sirridge said in her NLM biography. “But I have never felt that I made the wrong decision when I decided to be a physician.”
Arrangements by the Amos Family Funeral Home.