BARBARA LEE DRINKWATER, Ph.D.

November 8, 1926 – September 30, 2019

National Academy of Kinesiology – Fellow #268

On Monday, September 30th, Barbara Lee Drinkwater, Ph.D., FACSM, passed away in Gold Canyon, AZ.  Dr. Drinkwater was a leader in the field of exercise physiology focusing her work on issues related to girls’ and women’s health and athletic performance. A competitive athlete, her career began as a physical educator, women’s basketball coach and swimming instructor. Over her diverse career, she was a camp counselor, sports coach, a scuba instructor, and a rock-hound in addition to holding her commercial small aircraft pilot’s license and playing golf into her 90s. 

Born on November 18, 1926, in Plainfield, New Jersey, Barbara pioneered research in the field of women’s athletics. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Douglas College (now Rutgers University), a Master of Science degree at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and a Ph.D. degree in sports psychology from Purdue University. Dr. Drinkwater’s research career as an exercise physiologist began at the Institute of Environmental Stress, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She continued at the University of Washington in the Department of Kinesiology and concluded her academic and research career at the Pacific Medical Center in the Department of Medicine, where she led the Osteoporosis Research Laboratory. Specifically, she focused on the topics of thermoregulation; aging; and menstrual function, bone health, and exercise. She was the first research scientist to advise that comparisons of the physiological performances of men and women must account for body size. She also led the discovery of the relationship among amenorrhea, disordered eating, and osteoporosis - known as the Female Athlete Triad. Dr. Drinkwater was integral in identifying the seriousness of the Female Athlete Triad and the need for mandatory education regarding its effects. 

Dr. Drinkwater was inducted into the National Academy of Kinesiology in 1980 (Fellow #268). She was active in the American College of Sports Medicine, elected as an ACSM trustee, vice president and president (1988-1989) – the first woman to be elected to all three positions and the first female president of ACSM. Her contributions to medicine, science and physical performance was recognized by ACSM by presenting her with the Citation (1984) and Honor (1996) Awards. She delivered the D.B. Dill Historical Lecture in 1989 and the Wolffe Memorial Lecture in 1994.

Dr. Drinkwater was a founding member of WomenSport International and participated as a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission. As a founding member of Women Sports International, she spoke of the need to eliminate injustice for female athletes. She was instrumental in encouraging minority representation on ACSM committees. In 2014 Barbara’s work was recognized by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition as a recipient of the council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

After moving to Vashon Island in 1983 and resuming her research at the University of Washington and the Pacific Medical Center, in 1984 Barbara addressed the homeless pet population on Vashon by organizing an animal rescue group known as Vashon Island Pet Protectors or VIPP. Starting from the homes of a few volunteers, VIPP has become a thriving no-kill animal shelter, having rescued and assisted thousands of animals since its founding. 

A memorial service for Barbara was held on Wednesday, November 6, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Burton Lodge. Here is a link to her obituary.