March is National Women’s History Month. Especially considering a woman’s place in society has changed significantly in the past 150 years, the advancements many women were able to make in medicine in that time are impressive. We thought we’d share some interesting stories with you, to inspire you to go after your dreams and press onward to support those around you!
Dr. Virginia Apgar
You might recognize the name because of the Apgar Score, a system still used today to evaluate the health of a newborn baby. She developed the method in 1952, before fetal monitoring technology was available, providing a quick and easy way for nurses to measure breathing, skin color, muscle tone, reflexes, and pulse.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler
The first African-American woman to earn her doctor of medicine degree, she attended the New England Female Medical School (later Boston University School of Medicine). Graduating in 1864, she moved to the South which was still very broken from the Civil War, and cared for freed slaves in and around Richmond, VA, who would not have received medical care otherwise.
While Eleanor was known more for her policy agenda than her social parties to begin with, she had a major role in America’s healthcare during former President Harry Truman’s time in office. Appointed the head of the United Nation’s Human Rights Commission in 1948, she was instrumental in authoring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ensuring that access to health care was considered a basic right, rather than a privilege.
Sanger worked as a nurse in tenements on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, caring for women who had suffered botched abortions. She watched women’s lives restricted from their many births and children. She was the mover and shaker behind the first FDA-approved oral contraceptive, known as Enovid, and founded the American Birth Control League. She believed the way to women’s freedom was through reproductive control.
Dr. Nancy Dickey
Elected president of the American Medical Association in 1997, she was the first woman named to the role. While there, she developed the Patient’s Bill of Rights, one of the primary documents in any medical care received today. It essentially changed how care was conceived and delivered.
A geneticist, King began to search for a genetic marker for breast cancer, rather than accepting the theories of the day that it was caused by random factors. She identified chromosome 17 as a direct link, and her research laid the foundation for the discovery of the BRCA-1 gene in 1994.
It’s safe to say we wouldn’t be able to lead the kind of lives we do today without the hard work of these women and many others! While not all of us will win the Nobel Prize or identify a new genetic abnormality, we all have important work in our lives: supporting our family and friends, and achieving our dreams. Kudos to each of you, who juggle the responsibilities of a busy woman every day!
If you’re looking to learn more about your own health, or the medical changes that have inspired how we deliver care, click below. We look forward to hearing from you!