Helen Lamb was born on September 28, 1899, in Butler, Mo. She received her nursing education at Christian Church Hospital School of Nursing, Kansas City, Mo., and her RN license in 1921. She took her anesthesia training at Lakeside Hospital School of Anesthesia, Cleveland, Ohio, and was retained as a staff anesthetist after graduation. In 1927 she was recruited by thoracic surgeon Evarts A. Graham, the head of surgery at Barnes Hospital, St Louis, Mo., to become his anesthetist.
Lamb had a distinguished career at Barnes. She founded the School of Anesthesia in 1929 and served as director until her retirement in 1951. She administered the first endotracheal anesthetic in the United States for Graham, and she developed and administered the anesthetic for the world’s first successful pneumonectomy, performed by Graham, in 1933. She developed the intratracheal stylus for anesthesia and also collaborated with Dr. Richard von Foregger in the development of the von Foregger anesthesia machine.
Lamb was heavily involved with the AANA and helped shape it early years. She was a charter member of the AANA (then called the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists) and was present at its organizational meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1931. She chaired the AANA Education Committee numerous times (1933-1940, 1942-1946) and worked to establish the curriculum and minimum standards for schools of nurse anesthesia. She served as 3rd vice president (1931-1933) and trustee (1933-1938, 1942-1946), and was elected as AANA's fifth president (1940-1942). Lamb received the AANA Award of Appreciation along with honorary life membership to AANA in 1956. She was the second recipient of the Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in 1976. In 1980, the Helen Lamb Outstanding Educator Award was established in her name. Lamb organized the Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists in 1935 and served as its first president.
Lamb died on September 3, 1979, in San Diego, Calif.