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Recognizing Women in Medicine

  • Category: News & Events
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  • Written By: NSPC Team

On the heels of International Women’s Day recognition, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the achievements of women in medicine.

Women have always been central in providing medical care; however, the medical profession has been male-dominated for most of its history. It was only in the 1900’s that women won the right to study and practice medicine the same way as men.

There were a few notable early female physicians:

  • Merit Ptah c. 2700 BCE was an early physician in ancient Egypt. She is most notable for being the first woman known by name in the history of the field of medicine.
  • Agnodice c. 4th century BCE was the first female Athenian physician, midwife, and gynecologist.

Despite being excluded from formal education, women provided many medical services that the public needed including nursing, midwifery, and other healing arts. Through nursing, women made the first significant inroads into formal medical practice.

  • Florence Nightingale helped to revolutionize future hospital design
  • Elizabeth Blackwell was a British-born physician, notable as the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register.
  • Rebecca Lee Crumpler (February 8, 1831 – March 9, 1895) was the first African American woman to become a physician in the United States on March 1, 1864.

The 1970s marked a great increase of women entering and graduating from medical school. New legislation banned discrimination on grounds of gender and the women’s movement helped to shift the change. With women entering the medical field and the women’s rights movement came also the women’s health movement which sought alternative methods of health care for women. The women’s health movement, along with women involved in the medical field, opened the doors for research and awareness for female illness like breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Today, nearly a third of all practicing physicians are women. No longer considered strange or peripheral, they have become a strong, vital force, achieving a level of prominence that was unimaginable in the mid-19th century.

And as the rising numbers suggest, there is every reason to believe that they will continue to succeed. In view of this, we thank all women at National Spine & Pain Centers for their roles in the future of medicine.

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