International Women’s Day 2020: Great Women in Medical History
Happy International Women’s Day (IWD)! 🙂
The theme for this year is #EachForEqual
IWD (March 8th) is a time set out not only to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe but also to put the spotlight on gender inequality and how it affects not just women but the economy at large.
This year, the theme #EachForEqual seeks to highlight the fact that we all have a part to play in enabling and creating a more equal world. It’s not just a women problem, it’s an economic problem and so it’s everybody’s problem because after all, “an equal world is an enabled world”.
In our everyday lives, we can each play our parts by consistently challenging the many gender stereotypes and biases, highlighting and celebrating the hard work and achievements of the women around us and educating those less informed. This is a good place to start and by doing these, we can collectively enable a world that’s more equal.
In the spirit of celebrating the achievements of women, here’s going back in history to recognize some of the pioneer women that indirectly and directly helped pave the way for other women in medicine by breaking through the glass ceilings at a time that medical education and careers in medicine were pretty much inaccessible to the female population.
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell
Dr. Blackwell, who was a British woman born in 1821, was the first woman to earn an MD degree in the United States. She earned her MD degree in 1849 at a time when medical school was literally closed to women. After applying to medical school multiple times, she gained admission only after an all-male student body voted to admit a woman into medical school, reportedly as a joke.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler
At a time when society was not just unfair to women trying to earn a medical degree, but even more to women of color, Dr. Rebecca scaled through. Born in 1831, she was the first black woman to earn an MD degree in the United States in 1864. To put things into perspective, as at the time she earned her MD degree, only about 0.4% of medical doctors in the United States were female, and amongst these women, she was the only black woman.
Dr. Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi
Dr. Awoliyi, a Nigerian woman who was born in 1910 made history as the first female doctor to practice in Nigeria. She was also the very first woman of West African origin to be awarded a licentiate of the Royal Surgeons in Dublin back in 1938. This was almost unheard of during her time but she pushed through the gates and thanks to her for paving the way for not just women, but many more West African women who have gone through these gates that she opened.
Dr. Jane C. Wright
Dr. Wright has been credited as one of the pioneer chemotherapy researchers in history. Her work in researching chemotherapy changed the face of chemotherapy from being the cancer treatment to turn to when all else fails, to being the most reliable treatment for the illness. She also played a key role in the adoption of Methotrexate in the management of breast and skin cancer. These are two cancers that affect women a great deal.
Dr. Virginia Apgar
Dr. Apgar is the creator of the widely used “Apgar Score” (a gold standard tool used in the assessment of newborn babies to figure out if they need immediate potentially life-saving medical intervention). She came about this invention at some point in 1953 following her master’s degree in public health.
Dr. Gertrude B. Elion
This incredible woman won a noble prize for her work in developing the first antiviral medication known to man (acyclovir) which is now vastly used in the treatment of herpes infection, and also a medication for the treatment of AIDS. These two medications are widely used today and have contributed to the betterment of the health of millions across the globe.
Honestly, the list of women who have played key roles in science and medicine as a whole is endless but these are just a few.
Stay rising ladies <3
Featured image: Giphy
Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, Medical Communications, and Web Design/Development. She is a part of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She is also a Medical Writer at 3D4 Medical and runs a Medical Communications and Children’s books company (ODR Integrated Services/ ODR Books). She is the author of the newly published children’s book series “The Things Around Me”.