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WOMEN IN MEDICINE
Published in November, 2019
H E K T O R A M A

 

 

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ALICE HAMILTON

 

 

The squalid streets of working-class Chicago in the late nineteenth century would have been something of a shock to the girl who grew up in a sheltered but educated household in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her siblings all distinguished themselves as scholars, educators, and artists, encouraged by their mother, Gertrude, who taught all of her children, including her daughters, to achieve as well as to be of service. For Alice, this desire to be of service, a curious and active mind, and a wish for adventure and independence, formed her ambition to become a physician. More women were beginning to enter the field of medicine in the late 1800’s, but it was still by no means a common endeavor. While the Hamilton children had been taught literature and the classics at home, and the sisters later studied at a New England girls’ boarding school, Alice lacked the science background that would allow her to pursue a medical education. She worked to close this gap by studying with a nearby high school teacher, then entered a small, local medical college and tried to convince her dubious father of her intentions.

She could have completed her studies at the “little third-rate” medical school and gone on to practice locally, but Alice Hamilton wished to receive a serious education as a laboratory scientist.

 

 

By Anne Jacobson

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IDA SOPHIA SCUDDER
Born in India in 1870, Ida Sophia Scudder belonged to a missionary family. Her grandfather, Dr. John Scudder, was the first medical missionary from the United States to work overseas; and each of his seven sons contributed to missionary service in India. All in all a total of forty three members of the Scudder family gave over 1,100 years of missionary service to India.1Ida was educated in the United States and graduated from Northfield Seminary in Massachusetts, she then returned to India to take care of her  ailing mother. Unlike her predecessors, she was determined to go back to America for she could not bear the thought of becoming a missionary like them. Life as a missionary in India meant being surrounded by strife, poverty, famine, and disease, not the life she had envisioned for herself. She had plans to enroll at Wellesley College, get married, and live comfortably in America, far away from the struggles of a missionary life in India.1

 

By Angela Ann Joseph

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ELIZABETH BLACKWELL, MD 
Although Elizabeth Blackwell was portrayed on an 18 cent US stamp in 1974, curiously this was over a century after she graduated in medicine (Figure 1). Many remain unaware of her remarkable story as the first female Anglo-American physician, campaigner, and medical suffragette (Figure 2). [i]

She was born to a practising Quaker family in an old gabled house at Counterslip, near Bristol. Her father Samuel, a sugar refiner, was well-known in the 1820s for his opposition to slavery and his demands for reform in church and government. Her brother Henry was a spirited worker for women’s suffrage. Her younger sister Emily (1826-1910) became America’s second female physician. Having been rejected by Rush Medical College and Geneva College, Emily graduated from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in March 1854.

 

By JMS PEARCE

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ROSALYN YALOW: OPINIONS AND ACTIONS
Anyone who had even a brief conversation with Rosalyn Yalow will recognize her profound insight and bold judgment. These were not idle words: Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, the second woman ever to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine, never took a cent from the peer-review-run National Institutes of Health. This refusal of the organization is not to say that she wouldn’t accept federal funding, but if she did, it would be mostly on her terms. Rosalyn Yalow, who graduated from Hunter College in New York City, and earned her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana, joined the Radioisotope Unit of the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital in December 1947 and worked there throughout her career. In 1950, she brought Solomon A. Berson, a physician, to the VA to complement her background in physics. Together they produced a vast and significant body of research, including the development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA).

 

By Maja Nowakowski

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MARIE ELIZABETH ZAKRZEWSKA: IMMIGRANT, PHYSICIAN, TEACHER
Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska was a female physician and teacher, at a time when women were not taken seriously in the field of medicine by their male counterparts. She served as head midwife at the Royal Charite Hospital in Berlin, Germany,  then moved to the United States  and received a doctor of medicine degree at the all-male Western Reserve College in Cleveland (one of only six women admitted in the 1850s). She held vital positions at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and the New England Female Medical College before opening the New England Hospital for Women and Children. This institution was only the second in America to be run by women physicians, and became the primary training hospital for women physicians, surgeons, and nurses. She also helped found the New England Woman’s Club, and was active in the American Woman Suffrage Association.

 

By Cynthia Kramer

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CICELY WILLIAMS AND KWASHIORKOR
I first met Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz at my fourth-year surgery oral examination. He was one of three interviewers, and although I was sure that I failed the exam, he assured me that I had done well. I next met him almost 10 years later when I was a junior faculty member at the New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center. At this meeting, he proposed to have us use the new intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation device in our Coronary Care Unit for the treatment of cardiogenic shock. I can truly say that he not only found a way to treat cardiogenic shock in patient care, but also post-examination stress.

 

By Sue Reeves

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FRANCES OLDHAM KELSEY
Her name has disappeared into the vault of medical history and her dedication to scientific rigor and patient safety has been largely forgotten. Yet her silent but tangible legacy continues to this day. Born in Canada in 1914, Frances Oldham Kelsey received a BSc (1934) and MSc (1935) in pharmacology from McGill University, and a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Chicago in 1938. She remained on the faculty and received her MD in 1950. Early in her career she worked on drug discovery for treating malaria. During this work she became aware that some drugs passed through the placenta. This observation would be of critical importance to her later career.1

 

By Kevin R. Loughlin

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MADGE THURLOW MACKLIN: MEDICAL GENETICS
Macklin, nonetheless, is important for her efforts to introduce genetics instruction into medical education.3 In 1932 she corresponded with several deans of medical schools in Canada, the United States, and Britain, inquiring about the amount of instruction they were providing on heredity and disease. She presented her findings at the Third International Eugenics Congress held in New York during August 1932 as part of a proposal that a standardized course in medical genetics be established during the last year of medical school. Macklin went on to prepare a sample syllabus for such a course in 1933. She proposed thirty-six hours of instruction, including two hours devoted to the basic principles of Mendelian genetics, one hour of methodology for compiling family histories, and one hour of “preventive and public health aspects of the problem.”

 

By William Leeming

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VIRGINIA APGAR: OUR JIMMY
Known for developing the Apgar score, a measurement of newborn management, Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909- 1974) was often the only woman in a room of professional peers. Dr. Apgar developed the scoring strategy, “to find a way to get doctors to pay attention to the baby.”1 Alongside this enduring medical contribution, she held noteworthy warmth and professional dedication, “With her, life was exciting.”2 She may have been the only woman in the room, but such singularity hardly measured her worth.

 

By Yasaswi Paruchuri

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HAZEL LOUISE MCGAFFEY, MD

 

 

She was not famous and came from an unlikely medical career wellspring. Hazel Louise McGaffey (née Anderson) was born 21 August 1924 on her pioneer parents’ farm near Opheim, Montana, some of the last homesteading done in the 48 states. She was the second oldest of four children and recalls playing with prairie buffalo skulls. Her pets included Sparky, the coyote; she idolized Chief, the reliable draft horse, and their smart dog Shep, trained to bring the Herefords in from miles away. Her brother Arnold found a crumpled bugle believed to have been cast off from Sitting Bull’s retreating Sioux in flight from the Little Big Horn into Canada.

 

 

By Byron K. McGaffey & Ann McGaffey

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