Discover women physicians, the future of medicine

In 2018, for the first time since Elizabeth Blackwell entered medical school in 1849,the first woman to do so, more women than men entered U.S. medical schools and approximately half of all medical students are now female. This trend will likely continue, as fewer men are applying to medical school and more women are.

5 women physicians, multi-ethnic

Why celebrate women physicians?

In 1860 the United States had 200 women physicians.

By 1900, there were 7000.

Since 1975, the number of female physicians has increased from 35,626 to 333,294 in 2013. Women physicians comprise 35% of actively practicing physicians.

A minority no longer

In 2018, for the first time since Elizabeth Blackwell entered medical school in 1849,the first woman to do so, more women than men entered U.S. medical schools and approximately half of all medical students are now female. This trend will likely continue, as fewer men are applying to medical school and more women are.

class reunion
My medical school graduating class of 1978  at our 30th reunion; the original class was larger, 150 students, but the percentage of women was the same as in this photo. (I’m in the pink dress)

(This post contains commission earning affiliate links to help fund this blog)

Why are more women entering medicine?

In general women still lag men entering the STEM fields– science, technology, engineering, math. But I think the most important factor spurring  more women to enter medicine is the powerful example set by previous women physicians who have paved the way for us who entered medicine later.

DISCOVER WOMEN PHYSICIANS-WWW.WATERCRESSWORDS.COM, EXPLORING THE HEART OF HEALTH

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

The first woman graduate of a United States medical school was born in Bristol England in 1821. (thank you, UK readers). Elizabeth Blackwell came to this country as a child and originally had no interest in medicine. But when a dying friend told her, “I would have been spared suffering if a woman had been my doctor”, she found her calling.

She was denied admission to multiple medical schools. The Geneva Medical College of New York submitted her application to the student body for a vote, and, as a joke, they voted to admit her. Well, the joke was on them as she enrolled, completed medical school and graduated in 1849.

Read more detail about How Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in the United States

With her sister, Emily Blackwell , who also  graduated from medical school, and a German physician, Marie Zakrzewska, they opened and ran the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857.

Dr. Emily Blackwell managed the Infirmary for 40 years. Through a series of acquisitions and name changes over the next 100 years, the Infirmary evolved into a hospital that is a leader in New York City-the

New York-Presbyterian/ Lower Manhattan Hospital

is a not-for-profit, acute care, teaching hospital in Lower Manhattan south of Greenwich Village, near Wall Street, Stock Exchange, city government, 1 World Trade Center, and the 9/11 Memorial,

The Blackwell sisters’ infirmary now cares for 100,000 outpatient visits and 6,000 surgical procedures annually.

As Lower Manhattan’s only emergency department, the hospital treats 32,000 patients annually and provides more than 5,000 ambulance transports.

and on September 11, 2001, the hospital treated about 1,500 victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center

The Physicians Mom Group (PMG) declared Dr. Blackwell’s birthday February 3 as National Women Physicians Day. This day celebrates all the significant contributions that women physicians make daily, none of which would have been possible without Elizabeth Blackwell.

Dr. Blackwell embodied the ABC characteristics of extraordinary women physicians-

Attentive, Brave, Compassionate

doctors in surgery
Women physicians providing free medical care in a mission hospital

Dr.Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Prior to founding her hospital, Dr.Zakrzewska served as professor at the New England Female Medical College. That school produced another notable women physician, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler.

Dr. Crumpler graduated in 1864, becoming the first African-American woman to earn the M.D. in the United States.  After practicing in Boston, she moved to Virginia where she and other black physicians cared for freed slaves, who otherwise would have had no access to medical care.

In 1883 Dr. Crumpler wrote a book of medical advice for women and children, titled A Book of Medical Discourses, one of the earliest medical publications by an African American.

Dr. Virginia Apgar

Another woman physician’s work has impacted the lives of countless babies and their families. If you have had a baby, or been born within the past 60 years, you benefited from the work of Virginia Apgar, M.D.

The Apgar scoring system for newborn babies

Dr. Apgar was not an obstetrician or a pediatrician, but an anesthesiologist. As she observed deliveries of infants she proposed a scale to rate how well a newborn was adapting to life outside the mother.

crying baby
courtesy Pixabay

She considered 5 physical findings of a newborn and assigned each a score- 0, 1, or 2, at 1 minute of age, and again at 5 minutes.

So a newborn had a potential score as low as 0 and as high as 10.

The higher the score, referred to as the Apgar score, the more likely the baby was healthy and would do well. The lower the score meant the baby was in trouble, and needed intensive medical attention.The five findings are-

  1. heart rate
  2. respiratory (breathing) rate,
  3. muscle tone,
  4. reflexes, and
  5. color-pink (warm) or blue(cold)

After testing the use of the rating scale over several years, doctors starting using it routinely; so for the past 50-60 years almost all babies have been “graded” with an Apgar score at birth. The Apgar score  is used widely throughout the world.

Dr. Apgar, who played violin and cello in her college orchestra, was appointed the first full professor of medicine at Columbia University and also was a director for the March of Dimes.

Dr. Laurel Salton Clark

Dr. Laurel Clark served her country as a flight surgeon with the U.S. Navy. She along with her husband Dr. Jonathon Clark joined NASA as astronauts.

Dr. Clark made her first space flight on Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-107 as a mission specialist. The extended-duration mission was dedicated to scientific research. The STS-107 crew successfully conducted more than 80 experiments.

Independence, a space shuttle replica, on display at NASA in Houston, TX
The space shuttle replica Independence on display at Space Center Houston; photo by Raymond Oglesby during our visit to the center a few years ago

On February 1, 2003  Clark and the STS-107 crew perished during re-entry as Columbia broke up over Texas en route to a landing in Florida. She amassed 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space.

During a memorial service at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 4, 2003, President George W. Bush emphasized Clark’s love for her family and her work.

“Laurel Salton Clark was a physician and a flight surgeon who loved adventure, loved her work, loved her husband and her son,” he said.
A friend who heard Laurel speaking to Mission Control said there was a smile in her voice. Laurel conducted some of the experiments as Columbia orbited the Earth and described seeing new life emerged from a tiny cocoon. ‘Life,’ she said, ‘continues in a lot of places and life is a magical thing.'”

In this emotional interview, Dr. Jonathon Clark remembers his wife, who “sacrificed her life for space research.”

Changing the Face of Medicine

Women physicians are changing the face of medicine, not only in the way doctors look, but in the way physicians interact with patients and each other. Women doctors are leaders in humanitarian care, government service, social media, and innovative ways to provide care. Your next doctor may be one of these women.

Female doctor looking at an xray
image from Lightstock.com, affiliate link

The surprising new doctors caring for you

a female military doctor examining a child
photo credit Pixabay

Thanks to the American Medical Association for this post’s featured image.

Thank you for joining me to celebrate women physicians. If you haven’t met me already, please visit my bio page here-

Meet Dr. Aletha 

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

sharing the HEART of health

This affiliate link was founded by a woman M.D. , please check it out.
The M.D., Caroline J. Cederquist has spent her life’s work helping patients achieve healthy weight loss, through her years of clinical practice as a weight loss physician. Her understanding of what nutrition your body needs in order to achieve healthy weight loss, inspired her and her husband, The Foodie, to create bistroMD. Caroline wanted to provide her patients, and others struggling with weight, the ability to easily prepare healthy and delicious entrees at home.

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Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

I am a family physician who loves to write about the HEART of HEALTH. On my blog, Watercress Words, I inform and inspire us in healthy living. My ideas come from my training, experiences, medical practice, personal life, and medicine in the media. There's always something new and interesting to explore in the world of health and medicine.

9 thoughts on “Discover women physicians, the future of medicine”

  1. Very informative and interesting piece. It’s great to have the history and stats of women in medicine. I am a family nurse practitioner and have enjoyed the transition or more specifically, the merging of nursing and medicine. It’s the best of Both worlds.

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    1. Thank you Rochelle. History doesn’t have to be boring-I find it inspirational. I have learned to appreciate the women in medicine who broke barriers and created opportunities. Many women physician pioneers also helped the nursing profession to develop, so I agree-the best of both worlds. I’m glad you stopped by my blog and hope you will again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this great article! The world of medicine is changing and I am glad the landscape is including more female physicians. So important to celebrate the hard work and commitment each day!

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    1. Thank you Dr. Nadia. It has been my joy to welcome so many more women into medicine this past 40 years, and to meet so many others who also blog. Your generation of physicians do and will change the face of medical care in a positive way.

      Like

  3. Women are so important in the medical field, and have accomplished much over the last few years. It’s great to see more women becoming involved. In my extended family, there are a number of doctors and nurses – more female than male! Thank you for sharing, and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Hope you are having a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you April it was my pleasure. It is interesting that over the past few years more women than men are applying to medical school. I have also read that more men are going into nursing. Both professions always need more caring and competent people. It sounds like your family is more than doing its part.

      Like

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