Discover women physicians, the future of medicine

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. And check out my resources page where you’ll find links that will help you and help support this blog. 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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The surprising new doctors caring for you

Who will be your next doctor? What will your future doctor look like?

Your doctor within the next 10-20 years is likely in medical school or a residency program in a United States medical center right now. Within 1-10 years, they will join the ranks of practicing physicians, while some doctors currently in practice will change to a non-clinical job, retire, or die.

More women physicians are coming

For the academic year 2016-2017,  83,000 students, attended United States medical schools ,  slightly more males than female. However, in 2017, the entering class of medical students was slightly over 50% female, for the first time ever.

CELEBRATE WOMEN IN MEDICINE MONTH#WIMmonth

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, since 2015 the number of women students has increased by 9% while the number of men has decreased by 2 %.

And already, the majority of  young practicing physicians-under age 40 years old-are female.

So you are likely to be treated by a female physician eventually, if you haven’t already,  especially if you go to a primary care doctor. Gynecology and pediatrics  residency programs are now overwhelmingly comprised of female residents.

Ethnic diversity is still low but is improving

Entering classes at the nation’s medical schools continue to diversify.

From 2015 to 2017, black or African American students increased by 12.6%, and those  who were Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin rose by 15.4%.

a male doctor holding a tablet

However,  medical students and residents, both male and female, are still predominantly white. The ethnic percentages of most other students is far below their representation in the general population. Based on self-identification, race and ethnic origin of medical residents includes

  • White-60%
  • Black- 7%
  • Hispanic(any race)- 6%
  • Asian-26%
  • Multiracial- 3%
  • Unknown/other-7%
  • Native American/Alaskan/Pacific Island -less than 1%

How many U.S. physicians are foreign born ?

Will your physician come from another country?

Female doctor looking at an xray

70% of  U.S. medical residents are native citizens,  8% are naturalized citizens and 6% are permanent residents. ( adds to less  than 100% due to some status’ unknown.) 

Credentials of today’s physicians

The average grade point of entering medical students was 3.56.

77% had done some type of volunteer medical service .

77% have experience in medical research.

These statistics gleaned from JAMA, December 19, 2017 

Goals of new physicians

An Association of American Medical Colleges  annual survey of entering medical students found:

  • More students indicated that having a work-life balance rather than a “stable, secure future” or the “ability to pay off debt” was an “essential consideration” in their career paths after medical school.
  • Nearly 30% of new medical students indicated plans to eventually work in an underserved area.

The specialization of medical care- the good and the bad

March 16 was Match Day. Not a match as in color choice for an outfit nor a match as in finding a spouse, but the concept is similar.

On Match Day,  graduating medical students learn which  residency program they will enter through the National Resident Matching Program , which “matches” them with available positions in residencies at medical centers all over the United States. A kind of medical “matchmaking” you could call it.

Why should you care? This matching process determines who will care for our medical needs in the next 30-40 years; our family physicians, internists, pediatricians, general surgeons, obstetricians, and the multitude of other medical specialties. Most doctors will continue in the same speciality their entire career, although some  switch after a few or many years.

doctor talking to a woman
Ted Epperly, M.D., consults a patient at his practice in Boise, Idaho.photo compliments American Academy of Family Physicians

Some medical students know what speciality they want to pursue before they enter medical school, while others decide after trying the different types of medicine while students. We still have the traditional specialities that most students enter- (there are also many subspecialities under each of these categories.)

Primary care 

  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine -(adult medicine)
  • Pediatrics-children and adolescents
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology- care of women’s health and pregnancy

Surgical specialities

  • General Surgery-  surgery on skin and internal organs
  • Orthopedics-bones and joints
  • Otorhinolaryngology- ear, nose, throat
  • Ophthalmology-eyes
  • Neurosurgery-the brain, spine, nerves
  • Plastic and Reconstructive surgery
  • Cardiac and vascular surgery

Others 

  • Dermatology-skin
  • Psychiatry-mental health
  • Anesthesiology-surgical sedation and pain relief
  • Emergency medicine- emergencies and trauma
  • Radiology- xrays and other imaging-CT, MRI, US
  • Pathology-laboratory medicine
  • Allergy
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation
  • Oncology-treatment of cancer
  • Integrative and complementary medicine

As medical care has become more complex and technological, so have the specialties of physicians. This has produced a plethora of new highly specialized fields of practice.

  • Sleep medicine
  • Medical genetics and genomics
  • Pain management
  • Geriatrics- care of the elderly
  • Palliative care-managing diseases that cannot be cured and are likely terminal
  • Hospital medicine-care of patients admitted to a hospital
  • Critical care medicine-care of patients in an ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Aerospace medicine
  • Wound management
  • Medical informatics – use of computers and medical software in medicine
  • Bariatrics- treatment of obesity with or without surgery
  • Sports medicine-treatment of athletic injuries and fitness training
  • Transplant medicine- surgery to transplant organs and after care
  • Addiction medicine

A recent viewpoint in JAMA suggested that we need a new specialty, virtual medicine, to describe physicians who treat patients through a virtual medium, telemedicine or  web based, on a computer or a mobile app.

Consider that in the early 1970s, there were only 20 medical specialties !

THE SURPRISING NEW DOCTORS CARING FOR YOU
photo from Lightstock.com(affiliate link) graphic created with Canva

What this means for you as a patient

According to the New England Journal of Medicine,

“the progress of biomedical science is a major factor in the emergence of new subspecialities. There are some patients who benefit from highly focused knowledge and skills.”

All of these specialities mean more medical  knowledge and experience will be  available to both treat and prevent a diverse and growing  variety of disorders.

Today’s new specialist will have a high degree of expertise in their field, making them better able to treat your problem in the most efficient, effective, safest way.

You may find your doctor recommends more testing which may lead to more treatment than might otherwise have happened; some of which may not necessarily improve outcomes. More specialized testing and treatments may increase the cost of medical care.

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar addresses this issue in this article

One Patient, Too Many Doctors: The Terrible Expense of Overspecialization

With a more narrow focus of experience, that doctor may be less familiar with other aspects of your medical status.

So, to close this gap, primary care physicians have become increasingly important to oversee and coordinate care, especially for complex patients.

So there was good news in the Match this year. The upward trend in students matching into family medicine continued for the ninth consecutive year . In 2018 more students matched into family medicine than in any  previous year, 3,535 compared to 3,237 in 2017. 

“The number and proportion of U.S. medical graduates going into family medicine is the strongest indicator of the future of the primary care workforce because family medicine is the only specialty completely devoted to primary care,”

said Michael Munger, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Michael Munger, M.D., consults a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan.
Michael Munger, M.D., consults a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan. Photo compliments of American Academy of Family Physicians

My specialty-Family Medicine

I’ve often been asked ,”Why didn’t you specialize?” My answer, “I did. I specialize in Family Medicine.”

Once called “general practice”, Family Medicine is now a recognized specialty, requiring a residency and certification by  the American Board of Family Medicine.

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar wrote about his first year as a resident in

Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation

“In Jauhar’s wise memoir of his two-year ordeal of doubt and sleep deprivation at a New York hospital, he takes readers to the heart of every young physician’s hardest test: to become a doctor yet remain a human being.” ― Time

Lightstock photos

Unless otherwise stated, the doctor photos in the post are from the Lightstock.com collection . Get 5 free downloads at this affiliate link. (This blog can earn a commission if you buy photos which helps support the mission of Watercress Words.)

sharing the HEART of health

Thank you for joining me to explore the surprising new doctors caring for you. I hope you’ve learned something. Please contact me about topics you want to read about.

Please share this and other posts on social media and consider my affiliates and ads that help fund this blog and support projects to deliver the HEART of health around the world.

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. And check out my resources page where you’ll find links that will help you and help support this blog. Thanks so much.

my regards, Dr. Aletha