Women have made outstanding contributions in the field of medicine throughout history. From earning prestigious medical degrees to fighting for women’s equality in the workplace, female doctors are more prominent in science and medicine than ever before.
We celebrate women for their fearless accomplishments and exceptional contributions to medicine.
The first woman to earn her medical degree in the United States was Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, graduating first in her class from Geneva Medical College in 1849. Years later, Blackwell opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Throughout her life, Dr. Blackwell was a strong advocate and ally for women in the medical field. In her autobiography Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women published in 1895, she openly discusses the struggles she faced as one of the first women in medicine.
As the pioneer of the x-ray, Marie Curie discovered polonium and radium and their established connection between radioactivity and heavy metals in the late 1800s. This led to the development of the x-ray as a means to diagnose without open surgery. During WWI, Curie utilized x-rays to aid in the treatment of millions of soldiers. In 1903, Curie won the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1911, she was recognized for the same honor in chemistry, becoming the only woman to receive the Nobel Prize twice.
Notably recognized for her invention of the Apgar test in 1952, a scoring system to rapidly assess a newborn outside of the womb, Dr. Virginia Apgar is a medical revolutionary in her own right. The goal of the test performed just one minute after birth is to help reduce infant mortality and tend to medical needs quickly. Dr. Apgar was also the first female to hold the title of “Professor” at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Patricia Goldman-Rakic, an influential neuroscientist, is best known for her in-depth study of the human brain and its relation to memory. These studies lead to a groundbreaking understanding of neurological disorders like dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Her studies of dopamine on the brain have played vital roles in studying ADHD and schizophrenia.
Women have shattered glass ceilings in various medical specialties, and they continue to do so today. We look forward to a new generation of influential women in medicine and leadership to carry the torch from past generations.
Information submitted by Pomona Valley Health Centers