4 Notable Women In The Field Of Medicine

In observance of women’s history month, we have chosen these exceptional women who have dedicated their lives in pursuit of the study of the human anatomy and its many ailments. The amount of work they put into their respective achievements has helped save and improve millions of lives.

Elizabeth Blackwell

This British physician was born to Samuel and Hannah Lane Blackwell in Bristol England on February 3, 1821. Most known for being the first woman to earn a degree in medicine (MD) in the United States. She was also known as being a principal public health activist during her fruitful lifetime.

When they first arrived in the United States in 1832, Elizabeth’s first occupation, along with her sister, was being a teacher. At first, she was repelled by studying medicine as she is disgusted by the aspect of some ailments of the human body, though she enjoyed studying metaphysics and history. 

However, Elizabeth changed her mind upon the statement of a dying friend. Her friend said that had she been able to consult a female physician, her worst suffering could have been avoided for she was too embarrassed to consult male doctors.

After a lot of rejections and challenges, she was accepted at Geneva Medical College (now Hobart College) in October 1847. After 2 years of medical study, she graduated first of her class in 1849 officially becoming the first woman to have a medical degree in the US.

Her generosity led her to open a clinic recognized as the New York Dispensary for Poor Woman and Children. Then in 1857 together with her sister Emily who became a surgeon, and another physician friend named  Marie Zakrzewska, they founded the New York Infirmary for Poor Women and Children.

Marie Curie

Born Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Poland on November 7, 1867, and was naturalized-French, she is the first woman to receive a Nobel prize. Together with his husband Pierre Curie and colleague Henri Becquerel, they won the Nobel prize in physics for their contribution to the development of the theory of radiation.

In 1898 and 1902, Marie and her husband Pierre discovered Polonium and Radium respectively. Polonium was extracted from the uranium ore pitchblende and was named after their homeland. Radium, on the other hand, was discovered after successfully isolating radioactive radium salts in their laboratory in Paris. 

These discoveries led her to receive yet another Nobel prize, this time as a recognition of her contribution to Chemistry. The 1911 Nobel prize in Chemistry that was awarded to her made her the first-ever person to receive two Nobel prizes. 

The Polish-born French chemist lost her husband Pierre in 1906 after he stepped in front of an oncoming horse-drawn carriage whose coachman didn’t see him under the heavy downpour. In the same year, she was offered the chair left by her husband at the Physics Department of the University of Paris, becoming the first lady professor of the institute.

Gerty Cori

Nee Gerty Theresa Radnitz was born in Prague on August 15, 1896, to Otto and Martha Radnitz. Having a father who’s a chemist and first being taught at home, Gerty decided to pursue the field of medicine when she was 16 years old. She was accepted after she enrolled in a Lyceum for girls in 1906.

Pursuing medicine wasn’t that smooth for young Gerty. Upon her acceptance in the Lyceum for Girls, she was quite behind on various subjects. To be exact, she needed five years each for mathematics and science, and a total of eight years for Latin. She was able to astoundingly catch-up just within a year.

In 1920 she graduated with her lover, Carl Ferdinand Cori whom she later married in the catholic church after she converted to catholicism. After tying the knot, they moved to Vienna where Gerty worked pediatrics at Carolinen Children’s Hospital for two years while Carl worked at a laboratory in Austria.

They immigrated to the United States in 1922 to pursue a career in medical research at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases located in Buffalo, New York. They became naturalized in 1928 while they both were working on their papers about carbohydrate metabolism.

After publishing their work on carbohydrate metabolism in 1931, they moved to St. Louis Missouri where they were offered positions at the Washington University. Gerty had endured 13 years of having a lower rank and salary than Carl until she was promoted to an associate professor of Research Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology in 1943.

Then in 1947, she became the first American Woman -the third woman ever, to receive a Nobel prize in science. She was also the first woman ever to receive a Nobel prize in physiology or medicine. This was awarded to her for her services in scientific studies which resulted in their demonstration of the Cori Cycle, the process where the body metabolizes glycogen into lactic acid.

Patricia E Bath

An American scientist, inventor, humanitarian, and ophthalmologist, Patricia Era Bath was born to Rupert and Gladys on November 4, 1942, in Harlem, New York. Her passion for medicine was heavily influenced by Albert Schweitzer’s work in congo.

She was earning scientific awards as early as she was sixteen, furthering her drive to have a career in the medical field. Shortly, Patricia earned her medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine, then she completed her fellowship in ophthalmology at Columbia University.

While she was finishing her medical training at New York University, she gave birth to her daughter Eraka in 1972. She continued to advance her specialty while caring for her daughter, finishing her fellowship in corneal transplantation and keratoprosthesis, a subspecialty focusing on the replacement of the cornea.

As a humanitarian, Patricia has proposed an initiative called community ophthalmology, which became a worldwide practice to improve the ocular health of people from underprivileged areas. In 1893 she became the first woman to be chair of UCLA, and she also became the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Aside from that, she was the inventor of the Laserphaco Probe, an instrument that helps improve various eye conditions. She later patented her invention becoming the first African-American doctor to obtain a medical patent, she owns five in total.