Patricia Martin Rodier, Ph.D., Sweet Briar College Class of 1966, died Thursday, May 3, at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. She was 68.
A professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rodier was the “first scientist to formulate and study the idea that autism can originate long before a child is born,” according to an article on the university’s website. Her research, along with advanced clinical work conducted at the medical center, earned the autism program national recognition. From 1998 to 2008, the program was designated by the National Institutes of Health as one of 10 Collaborative Programs for Excellence in Autism in the United States.
Rodier was also a world expert on mercury toxicity, analyzing how single exposures to the chemical during pregnancy influence a baby’s brain development. Much of the research on mercury exposure and birth defects continues to rely on Rodier’s early findings. Rodier served as a key government witness for the highly publicized court cases regarding vaccines containing thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative. She played a key role in determining that the preservative and vaccines are not linked to autism.
A native of Roanoke, Va., Rodier received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Sweet Briar, where she graduated in 1966 alongside her twin sister, Donna Martin Zahorik. Rodier later completed her master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology at the University of Virginia. Her career at the University of Rochester began in 1980, where, after studying anatomy and embryology as a post-doctorate fellow, she taught anatomy until the early 1990s.
Rodier was a passionate traveler and loved art, frequently visiting museums around the world with her husband, Robert Kern. She also enjoyed the opera and was an avid sports fan “able to recite statistics on any sport, from professional baseball to NCAA basketball,” according to the article.
Aside from her husband, Rodier is also survived by her twin sister, as well as a younger brother and two stepchildren.
It was Rodier’s wish that her body be donated to the Anatomical Gift Program at the University of Rochester Medical School to further medical education. A memorial to honor and celebrate her life will be held this summer at a date yet to be determined.
To read the full obituary in The Roanoke Times, please click here.