Women in healthcare

We made a timeline of some amazing achievements and contributions women have made in healthcare.

200-400 AD
Although there's some debate over dates, Metrodora wrote the ancient greek text "On the Diseases and Cures of Women". Notably, her book covers all areas of medicine related to women, not just childbirth, which was revolutionary at the time.

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Dr Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to get a medical degree in the USA. She attended Geneva Medical College after being turned away by over ten medical schools.

She faced a lot of animosity from her male students, who only agreed to admit her into the programme because they thought it was a joke.

Blackwell co-founded the New Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children in 1857.

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Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD
Rebecca was the first African American woman in the USA from the New England Female Medical College in Boston. At the time of her graduation in 1864, she was the only black graduate in the school's history.

After the American Civil war, Rebecca moved to the South to care for previously enslaved people.

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Mary Putnam Jacobi, MD
Mary was the first woman to study at l’École de Médecine in Paris.

Her work on menstruation helped debunk many of the myths at the time, like any exertion during menstruation could make women infertile.

Mary collected extensive physiological data on women during their menstrual cycle and concluded, "there is nothing in the nature of menstruation to imply the necessity, or even desirability, of rest."

Her paper won the prestigious Boylston Prize and was a powerful tool in the equality movement.

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Mary Seacole
Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica to a Jamaican mother and a Scottish father who was a soldier. During her childhood, her mother ran a lodging house for wounded soldiers, who she treated with traditional Jamaican medicine.

In 1854, Mary approached the British War Office to go to Crimea as an army nurse. The War Office denied Mary's request, but she decided to fund her own trip anyway. Mary opened the "British Hotel" near the front line, which provided a space for sick and recovering soldiers.

In her time, Mary was often called "Mother Seacole", and her reputation was as well-known as Florence Nightingale back in the UK.

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Gertrude Elion
Elion was a biochemist and pharmacologist and won the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine in 1988.

Alongside George H. Hitchings and Sir James Black, she developed a number of new drugs. Among these drugs, she helped develop AZT, the first widely used drug to treat AIDS and Azathioprine, which helps fight rejection in organ transplants.

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Rosalind Franklin
Franklin was a chemist and X-ray crystallographer who was an integral part of the team that discovered the molecular structure of DNA.

Known as the "dark lady of DNA", Franklin's contribution to discovering DNA has often been unrecognised throughout history.

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Henrietta Lacks
Although Henrietta Lacks wasn't a doctor or medical professional, she deserves her place on this list.

Henrietta died in 1951 of an aggressive form of cervical cancer, but her cancerous cells were unique because they were pretty much indestructible. The doctors who took these samples during her diagnosis shared her cells with researchers, who continued to share them widely with other scientists.

It's important to understand that this was done without Henrietta's consent. Henrietta's story demonstrates the ingrained racial inequities embedded in healthcare systems across the world.

Her cells became the backbone of a lot of biological research, and a significant amount of modern medicine comes from the work on HeLa cells.
Henrietta is often called the "mother of modern medicine".

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Tu Youyou
Tu Youyou is a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist who discovered the compound artemisinin that has saved millions of lives worldwide.

In 1969, Youyou turned to traditional Chinese medical texts from the Zhou, Qing, and Han Dynasties to find a cure for malaria, and she did. Not only did she discover artemisinin, but she also volunteered to be the first human subject because she believed it would work.

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Rosalyn Yalow
Rosalyn Yalow was involved in the development of radioimmunoassays, which allows us to measure blood hormones. This work technique made it possible to scan blood donations for diseases like HIV/AIDs.

She received the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine in 1977 alongside Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally.

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Dame Sarah Gilbert
Dame Sarah Gilbert is a vaccinologist and Professor at the University of Oxford. In 2020, she read about the four people who had contracted an unknown type of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Within two weeks, her team at Oxford has designed a vaccine against the new virus which is now known as Covid-19.

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Julielynn Wong
Julielynn Wong is a physician, scientist and international expert in 3D printing, telemedicine and robotics.

Wong set up the organisation 3D4MD to help make healthcare more accessible worldwide. She's made it possible for different medical supplies to be 3D printed worldwide and even in space.

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