Category Archives: the business of health care

Discover women physicians, the future of medicine

September is Women in Medicine Month.

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 grown more than six-fold, from 35,626 to 333,294 in 2013. Women physicians comprise 35% of actively practicing physicians. Follow this link for a detailed timeline of

A PROFILE & HISTORY OF WOMEN IN MEDICINE

Last year, for the first time since Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman  in the U.S. admitted to medical school in 1849, 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.

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 in 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

The First Woman Doctor
The First Woman Doctor

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. Dr. Marie Zakrzewska moved to Boston when she founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children, which trained  women physicians and cared for the poor.

Due to failing health, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell retired from practice in the 1870s.

 

 

 

 

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

Women physician members of CMDA providing medical care in Ecuador

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

More recently, a 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.

She was neither 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 factors:

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

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.

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

More recently, 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.

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.”

Please see these related posts about women physicians who are Changing the Face of Medicine

The surprising new doctors caring for you

Today is Armed Forces Day

 

 

 

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 

Please continue to follow this blog as we explore

and share the HEART of health

stethoscope with a heart

 

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How a woman doctor finds joy in an unexpected way

When I finished my family medicine residency many years ago, I was excited to start practicing medicine for real. I joined the staff of a small town hospital (the only female doctor by the way) and soon was busy treating patients in the clinic, rounding on hospital patients, delivering babies, and covering the emergency room.  I enjoyed doing what I had dreamed of and trained for, but eventually found I spent more time there than with my husband and toddler son.

Since we were planning on adding a second child, I knew I could not sustain that pace. Fortunately I found a position with a medical group in a nearby city where my schedule would be more predictable, with no obstetrics or ER responsibility.

I’m sharing with you a guest post from another woman doctor who faced a similar dilemma (most of us do) . She solved her problem in an unconventional creative way. I think you will enjoy meeting Dr. Joanne Jarrett, who blogs at Creating Cozy Clothes .

My Unexpected, Crazy Journey from Medicine to Fashion

By Joanne Jarrett MD

woman in an apron holding a wooden sign-
Dr. Jarrett enjoys cooking too.

 

Hi! My name is Joanne Jarrett, and I am a retired family physician. Not the “golden years” kind of retired, but rather the “retired sounds better than I quit” kind.

 

a career in the making

If you’d told me in my twenties that I would be designing loungewear for women and preparing to move to a farm in rural Montana in my mid-forties, I’d have said you had the wrong girl. I was a determined, sharp, ambitious, successful medical student and resident, and I was planning to have it all.

My husband and I wanted kids, but that would have to wait until all of our training was complete. We took turns going through our residency programs, and we moved home to Reno, Nevada from a two year stint in Lincoln, Nebraska with 24 weeks of my first pregnancy under our belts and a new practice to run.

Needless to say, my being a stay-at-home mom was not plan A for our family.

 

a fast track career

When I became pregnant, I was working a full time family practice, seeing patients at 3 hospitals before and/or after my full day, doing urgent care some nights and weekends, and taking call for our large group a week at a time every 7 weeks. I knew that schedule was completely incompatible with motherhood, but we thought I’d work 2 or 3 days a week and have my mom nanny while I worked.

Then Delaney was born, and reality set in.

I realized that I didn’t have room inside of me to be the physician my patients deserved and to be the wife and mother I wanted for my family. I already knew that during those 6 years of marriage before kids I worked hard all day, gave every bit of myself away piece by piece, and then came home and offered my husband the crappy leftovers. He knew how hard I was trying and didn’t complain much.

It worked, but a baby tipped the scales. We couldn’t both work jobs where emergencies make the schedule predictably unpredictable. I was exhausted and knew there was no way I could face the emotional lability and intellectual demand of being a physician in my state. And I loved being with that baby girl. When I was away from her I felt an undeniable tug back.

Then Bailey arrived less than 2 years later and it was decided. I was staying home. For good.

a career crossroads

At first, I was in survival mode and didn’t care about the changes I saw in myself. I just wanted sleep and ice cream. But eventually I started to wonder if who I used to be would ever matter again and how to find her.

Over a decade in, that woman is back. But she’s better than she used to be. More patient. More settled. More fulfilled. Less scared. Looking back, I’ve transitioned from professional to harried new mom to seasoned household CEO, self respect and vigor for life mostly intact!

a woman walking with two girls on sand
Dr. Joanne’s grand mother  with her daughters

 

Running my family has been pretty much all consuming, but I’ve always had a creative side and, through the years, I have developed hobbies that foster that. Scrapbooking made sense when the kids were babies. Combining creativity with a means of wrangling the millions of photos we were taking was a win win.

A limited decorating budget and a very picky décor taste lead to me borrowing my mom’s sewing machine and making an entire house worth of curtains, learning on the fly.

 

 

 

And I have always had a thing for wrapping a beautiful gift. To the point where I have a whole wall full of paper, ribbons, and other do-bobs to help me wrap a stunner at a moment’s notice.

Sewing flat, square things like curtains and pillow covers slowly evolved into kids’ costumes and then street clothes. I have a thing for fabric, and the combination of creativity and precision that following a pattern requires satisfies my creative flair and my bent towards the analytical.

I began altering clothes in my closet to better fit my (ever varying, eye roll!) shape and began seeing the potential in clothes instead of the mere reality of what was on the hanger.

I also have a passion for downtime. This wasn’t always the case. Scott and I have been married 20 years, and at first I had no idea how to relax. Saturday would come and I’d say, “What do you want to do today?”

From the couch, he’d say “this!”

My skin would crawl .I just didn’t know how to have a recovery or leisure day.

Well, I’ve learned well! You’ll never catch me hanging around at home in my jeans and underwire bra. Huh-uuuuh! As soon as I get home at the end of the day, I head straight to my closet to get into my cozy clothes. I live in them when I’m home. Even if I’m busy with this and that, I like the psychological change triggered by putting on those comfy clothes.

But those clothes aren’t perfect. I’m setting out to change that! We need a little coverage and support despite that fact that the bra is off the team at home. I discovered shelf-bra camis and began wearing them as loungewear and pajamas. I could never figure out why this concept wasn’t expanded into other pieces.

 

a career changes directions

After years of googling “shelf bra pajamas” and “shelf bra nightgown” and coming up with nothing except slinky lingerie (get real!!), I decided to design a line of cozy loungewear for women who want to be comfortable at home in something soft, cute, flattering and supportive. Something that feels and looks great to wear in the “no bra zone” but that is fit for public consumption should the need arise. I figured if I couldn’t find them, I’d make them and maybe other ladies will like them too.

And not all shelf bras are created equally, if you know what I mean. I set out to design the perfectly soft but flattering shelf that has enough thickness for coverage and enough separation to look great. I embarked upon a know-nothing journey into apparel production and have learned an entirely new industry over the last year.

I call the line “Shelfies.” Shelfie Shoppe launched on May 8th , taking preorders as part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first production run. I’d be honored if you’d click the link and check it out!

And because life is crazy, on June 20th my entire extended family is making a northerly migration from Reno to rural Montana. We are moving to the town of Huson, 20 miles outside of Missoula, to a farmhouse on 20 acres with a river running through it (no, really!). The four of us will live in the house, my parents and two aunts are building a barn residence next to the house, and my sister and her family have purchased a home a few miles away.

So we don’t have much going on!

What are you doing with your life that you could never have predicted a decade or two ago? Leave a comment and let me know!

a shirt with a tag-shelfie

 

update June 15, 2018

I’m happy to report that Joanne’s Kickstarter campaign is complete and Shelfie Shoppe is fully funded! I committed and will receive one of her “cozy” dresses as my reward.

 

Whether  you need “cozy clothes” or not, I think we can all learn a lesson from Joanne’s life.

When the circumstances of life leave us feeling

  • impatient

  • unsettled

  • unfulfilled or

  • scared

 we may need to evaluate if change is necessary.

It may not be as drastic a change as she made, but even small steps can get us to a place where we can use our talents and passions to create a life that satisfies us and blesses others.

Please  spend some time on Joanne’s blog. She has a variety of posts on health, family, kids, food, and humor. Here’s a sample of a hilarious but thoughtful post about

Why I’m glad I got toilet paper stuck to the seat of my pants

 

a wooden door with a heart shaped hold

 

And please follow watercress words and me on social media, and explore the

                   HEART of health with me.                 Dr. Aletha stethoscope with a heart