Honoring Women and their impacts on healthcare for Women’s History Month

March 10, 2023

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)- First woman in America to earn an M.D. degree.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree, paved the path for innumerable women to follow. Dr. Blackwell faced years of discrimination before graduating first in her class from Geneva Medical College in New York in 1849.

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)- A pioneer of modern nursing practice

Florence Nightingale is often referred to as “the lady with the lamp,” for her nighttime rounds to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1850s.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895)- First African American female MD

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. Challenging the prejudice that stopped so many Black Americans from pursuing medical careers, Dr. Crumpler graduated from New England Female Medical College in 1864.

Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919)- First female U.S. Army surgeon

In all of American History, only one woman has received the Presidential Medal of Honor—and that woman was Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Not only that, but Dr. Walker was also the first female U.S. Army surgeon. She was a women’s rights advocate, an abolitionist—and a true pioneer for women in healthcare.

Jane Cooke Wright (1919-2013)- Mother of chemotherapy

The first woman to be elected president of the New York Cancer Society, Dr. Jane Wright dedicated her career to researching cancer treatments. Highlighting her fruitful career, Dr. Wright was appointed to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke, and worked as associate dean at New York Medical College.

Clara Barton (1821-1912- Founder of the American Red Cross

Known for her humanitarian work and for founding the American Red Cross, Clara Barton was a woman of compassion and determination. In 1861, Barton left her job to dedicate her time to bringing supplies to soldiers and tending to those wounded, sparking a life-long career aiding those in need.

Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915)- First American Indian female MD

The first Native American woman in the United States to earn a medical degree, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte had an extraordinary career. She helped over 1,300 people by providing financial advice, resolving family disputes, and providing access to medical care any day at any time.

Antonia Novello 1944- First Hispanic Surgeon General of the United States

Dr. Antonia Novello was the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as surgeon general of the United States. While her focus was pediatrics, her work touched every corner of healthcare and medicine. Dr. Novello served in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps for many years, working with the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Disorders. She later became deputy director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, focusing on pediatric AIDS.

Nancy W. Dickey 1950- First female president of the American Medical Association (AMA)

The first woman to be elected president of the American Medical Association (AMA), Dr. Nancy Dickey is an educator, leader, and passionate caregiver. When she started her relationship with the organization as an elected member of the AMA Council on Medical Services, she was 26 years old–the youngest to have ever held that position.


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