10 Women in Medicine Who Paved The Way

#womenshistorymonth physicianleaders womeninleadership womeninmedicine Mar 08, 2023

Hi Physician Leaders,

I'm Dr. Lisa Herbert, Board Certified Family Physician, Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Executive Leadership Coach. I help physicians transition into leadership roles so they can be the respected voice in healthcare.


March is Women’s History Month.


“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital that of the men whose names we know so well.”- President Jimmy Carter’s message designating March 2-8 1980 as National Women’s History Week


Women’s History Month is a month-long celebration of the amazing work we do as women. As far back as 1911 women’s achievements were observed in smaller ways- nearly a decade before American women were granted the right to vote. Finally, in 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians successfully lobbied for national recognition. Then in February of 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of march 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.  It was quickly realized that the accomplishments of American women couldn’t possibly be celebrated and appreciated in a single week. In 1987 that week was expanded to a month and since then the tradition has continued.


From the beginning of time behind every movement, there has been a woman; from the right to choose to taking a stand against gun violence, fighting for equal pay and child care, fighting for services for our children, and the right to vote. Some of these issues are still being fought today.


Our story as women in medicine dates back to 1849 when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to be granted an MD degree. Blackwell began her pioneering journey after a deathly ill friend insisted, she would have received better care from a female doctor. Today we know that studies have found this to be true. There is also the story of the first African American woman in the United States to earn an MD degree, Rebecca Lee Crumpler was inspired by an aunt who took care of many ill neighbors. Fast forward to Jocelyn Elders becoming the first African American surgeon general of the United States and the second woman to hold that position.


These inspiring, trailblazing women broke barriers for themselves, underserved patients, and the nation. In honor of Women’s History Month, I am sharing the stories of female pioneers who changed the face of medicine.

Susan LaFlesche Picotte

She saw a Native American woman die because a white doctor refused to care for her. Years later, Picotte would become the first Native American woman in the United States to earn a medical degree.

Gerty Theresa Cori

She was the first U.S. woman to win a Nobel Prize in science. She and her husband Carl worked as equals, yet they were rarely treated that way. They both developed the Nobel-winning Cori cycle that explained how glucose is metabolized. Carl was courted by various institutions and became a department chair at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, but Gerty remained a research assistant. Eventually, in 1947, Gerty was promoted to professor of biochemistry.

Virginia Apgar

Virginia Apgar devised the Apgar score in 1953, creating the first tool to scientifically assess a neonate’s health risks and need for potentially life-saving observation. Former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond once said that Apgar had “done more to improve the health of mothers, babies, and unborn infants than anyone else in the 20th century.”


Read more of their stories here https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/celebrating-10-women-medical-pioneers


As we continue to speak out on issues, improve the lives of others and continue to break barriers, we must remember to care for ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually so that we can continue to bring about change and pass down a legacy of leadership, strength, and social action to other women in medicine and those contemplating a career in medicine.


Thank you for taking the time to read this. As always…..I'm Dr. Lisa Herbert, Board Certified Family Physician, Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Executive Leadership Coach. Through my coaching programs, courses, and books, I help physicians transition into leadership roles so they can be the respected voice in healthcare.


If you are ready to become the respected voice in healthcare and transition into a career where you can make a difference, schedule your complimentary discovery call here to see how we can work together

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