In honor of Women’s History Month, it’s important to recognize the trailblazers in the healthcare industry. They endured discrimination and criticism for stereotypes about women and went on to change the way we think about healthcare. These women were some of the first of their kind and paved the way for women in healthcare today.
Elizabeth Blackwell, MD
Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to be granted a medical degree in 1849. After being turned away from more than 10 medical schools, many of her friends and family suggested she dress as a man in hopes of getting a fair shot at her dream profession. Blackwell stood strong and knew that one school would take a chance on a female candidate for an MD program, Geneva Medical College was willing to do so. After graduating and having a hard time finding work, she introduced the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children to help those who were less fortunate and could not receive medical attention in 1857.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD
Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African American woman in the United States to be granted her medical degree in 1864. Crumpler was known throughout her neighborhood for taking care of the older generation as well as anyone who was ill. She knew medicine was her passion and was determined to be the first of many excellent African American female doctors. Crumpler attended school at the new England Female Medical College in Boston. After graduation and the Civil War, Crumpler moved to Virginia to work with those who were formerly enslaved people.
Susan LaFlesche Picotte, MD
Susan LaFlesche Picotte became the first Native American woman in the United States to be granted her medical degree. After watching a Native American woman die at a very young age due to issues with a racist and sexist doctor, Picotte was inspired to help care for a population that did not receive fair medical treatment. Picotte attended the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and was top of her class when she graduated in 1889. Picotte returned home to Omaha, Nebraska and served her reservation of almost 1,300 people for all medical needs.
Getry Theresa Cori, MD
Getry Theresa Cori was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. After meeting her husband in medical school in Prague, the couple moved to Buffalo, New York to begin their research in the biomedical field. After being told she would ruin her husband’s career if she continued research with him, she persevered and they published 20+ articles together. In 1947, Cori won the Noble Prize alongside her husband and was offered a position as a biochemistry professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis.
The feats women have overcome in the medical field continues to stand monumental on the global spectrum. While these women all had a massive impact on medicine around the world, there are plenty more woman in STEM who have made strong contributions to the medical field. Thousands of lives have been saved and will continue to be saved due to their dedication to the progression of healthcare today.