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Dedicated Hemotologist and Patient Advocate Dies at 95

August 20, 2019
Dedicated Hemotologist and Patient Advocate Dies at 95

August 12, 2019 saw the passing of longtime hematologist Shelby Lee Dietrich, MD at the age 95. Born in 1924, Dietrich spent her formative years in Lexington, Kentucky. She later earned both her undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan, where she was one of only 15 female students in her medical school class of 118.  

As a hematologist in the early 1960s, Dietrich was integral to the establishment of a much-needed hemophilia treatment center in the Los Angeles area, working to ensure its financial stability and long term viability. She and fellow innovators in hemophilia care were featured in a documentary called Blood Roots: Hemophilia Treatment Centers, Pioneers in Comprehensive Health Care.

In the 1970s she advocated for California’s genetically Handicapped Persons Program, a health care program designed for adults with certain genetic diseases, including hemophilia, von Willebrand disease and platelet disorders. Dietrich went on to be recognized as a researcher working for a cure to HIV/AIDS, just as the virus was beginning to take a terrible toll on the hemophilia community in the 1980s.

In 1990, she helped found Young and Healthy of Pasadena with the mission of providing medical, dental and psychosocial care to underserved and uninsured children in the greater Pasadena area. Approaching its 30 year anniversary, Young and Healthy of Pasadena is now a robust 501(c)(3) organization sustained by a dedicated volunteer staff of more than 350 healthcare professionals and 460 community volunteers.

Dietrich leaves an enduring legacy of direct care and service, with the most vulnerable patients and families often foremost in her mind. Equipped with great determination, energy and persistence, she and her many collaborators established programs that to this day ensure a better quality of life for thousands of affected individuals. 

Her partner and husband of 51 years, Irving Rector, died in 2002. Dietrich is survived by daughters Sarah Rector Aguilar, Lucy Rector Filppu and Ann Chapin Rector, son-in-law Len Filppu, daughter-in-law Nancy Megli, and grandchildren Albert Aguilar, Arthur Filppu, Dori Filppu and Alexi Seale.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Young and Healthy of Pasadena. Services will be held Saturday, August 31st at 4pm at Neighborhood Church in Pasadena.