In Memoriam: Dr. Beryl Benacerraf

  • Jacques S. Abramowicz
    Address correspondence to: Jacques S. Abramowicz, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Chicago, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
    President-elect, World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (
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      It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Dr. Beryl Benacerraf after a prolonged and courageous fight with esophageal cancer. The World Federation for Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology (WFUMB) offers our deepest condolences to her husband, Peter Libby, and her children, Brigitte and Oliver.
      Beryl was born in New York, but her family moved to Paris, France, where she spent her earliest years, before the family returned to New York when Beryl was 7 years old. She eventually graduated from Barnard College cum laude and attended Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1976. After starting a residency in surgery, she switched fields and completed a residency in radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and then a fellowship in ultrasound and computed tomography at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Few people knew that Beryl had dyslexia. She often said that this helped her discern patterns and see details in pictures faster and better than her non-dyslexic colleagues.
      Beryl was truly one of the world pioneers in obstetric and gynecologic ultrasound. Already in 1985, she described the nuchal fold thickness as a marker for trisomy 21, several years before nuchal translucency (the same finding, measured in a different plane) became the standard. She was originally discredited for this finding, but this was only one of her many outstanding contributions to the field of prenatal diagnosis. Her interest in fetal anatomy, normal and abnormal, led to what is known as “genetic sonography” with reviews of the entire spectrum of syndromes that are known to cause or are associated with fetal malformations. She was also an innovator in gynecologic ultrasound, specifically with respect to pelvic pain, uterine congenital anomalies and endometriosis. She was an early adaptor and enthusiastic supporter of 3-D/4-D technology.
      Beryl was a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology and Clinical Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. She authored more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and the classic, best-selling book Ultrasound of Fetal Syndromes, which became a reference for all involved with the field. She was a sought-after speaker and gave innumerable keynote lectures with her well-recognized PowerPoint black background and pink lettering. For 10 years she was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine, greatly improving its scientific value and recognition as one of the top journals in ultrasound became stronger and more widely known.
      She was closely involved with the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), of which she was treasurer and president-elect and then president (2015–2017), the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG) and WFUMB. She was awarded the AIUM William J. Fry Memorial Lecture Award, the Joseph H. Holmes Pioneer Award and several Presidential Awards. She received the ISUOG Ian Donald Gold Medal Award for her extraordinary scientific contribution to the advancement of diagnostic ultrasound in obstetrics and gynecology through research and innovation. She was an elected fellow of the American College of Radiology and the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound and was awarded the Marie Curie Award from the American Association of Women Radiologists (2008) and the Lawrence A. Mack Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound (2010). She actively participated in WFUMB's activities as AIUM councilor and was WFUMB's three-term treasurer from 2003 to 2011.
      WFUMB and the entire ultrasound community are forever indebted to her extraordinary contribution to the field of obstetric and gynecologic ultrasound.