Today, nearly a third of all practicing physicians are women, and they account for more than 60% of pediatricians and more than 51% of obstetricians/gynecologists. It wasn’t all that long ago when barriers prevented women from attending medical school or pursuing a career in the sciences. On a day when we celebrate women, International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to the many pioneering women who paved the way for change and made significant contributions to health and medicine. Meet ten of them.
Nearly a third of all practicing physicians are women.
METRODORA: A Greek physician, Metrodora was the author of the oldest known medical book written by a woman, On the Diseases and Cures of Women (200-400 CE).
MARIE CURIE: The first woman to win the Nobel Prize in 1903, she discovered two new chemical elements—radium and polonium. She conducted the first research into the treatment of tumors with radiation.
ELIZABETH BLACKWELL: The first woman doctor in the US and co-founder of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
CLARA BARTON: Founder of the American Red Cross in 1881 after caring for soldiers during the Civil War.
DOROTHY HODGKIN: Using X-ray crystallography to study biological molecules, she determined the structures of penicillin, vitamin B12, and insulin.
RITA LEVI-MONTALCINI: Italian neurophysiologist who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that causes developing cells to grow by stimulating nerve tissue.
ROSALIND FRANKLIN: Rosalind Franklin: British biophysicist known for her X-ray work that played a crucial role in the discovery of DNA’s structure.
GERTRUDE BELL ELION: Chemist who helped develop the first major drug to fight leukemia and winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988.
PAT GOLDMAN-RAKIC: Made significant contributions to the study of the brain and diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
ROSALYN SUSSMAN YALOW: If you’ve ever had a blood transfusion, thank Nobel Prize winner Rosalyn for the technique she developed to scan blood donations for infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.