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International Women's Day at Medical Center Barbour

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day for celebrating women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. At Medical Center Barbour, women make up a huge number of our workforce, with over half of the employees here being female.

At MCB, we are not an anomaly, as women have driven 80% of the overall growth in the booming health care field since the turn of the century.

By far, the largest health care occupation in the United States is registered nurses, with over 2.4 million workers, followed by nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides (1.2 million). Women make up more than 85% of workers in both of these large occupations.

There are about 763,000 physicians and surgeons working full-time, year-round, and about a third of those are women. Great strides have been taken in the healthcare industry by some intelligent and illustrious women over the years, and the women who came before have opened the door for women to be successful today.

Below are five notable women who have blazed a path in healthcare and medicine so that women in this day and age can follow their dreams in the field:

  1. Metrodora Women have been completely dominating the medical field for a long, long time. As a matter of fact, Metrodora was dominating way back in 200-400 AD when she wrote the oldest medical book known to be written by a woman, On the Diseases and Cures of Women. Her book was referenced frequently by other medical writers during the ancient Greek and Roman times and was used in Medieval Europe as well. Metrodora, who was a Greek physician, is known to be the first female medical writer.

  2. Elizabeth Blackwell Known as the first female doctor in the United States, Elizabeth Blackwell didn't always have dreams of being a doctor. In fact, the idea completely repulsed her, but when her dying friend told her she would have been spared her worst suffering if her physician had been a woman, Blackwell decided to go into medicine. Blackwell graduated from New York’s Geneva Medical College in January 1849, and also co-founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.

  3. Clara Barton After serving as a nurse in the American Civil War, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881, and by 1882, the U.S. ratified the Geneva Conventions — laws that, to this day, protect the war-wounded and civilians in conflict zones. This later resulted in a U.S. congressional charter, officially recognizing Red Cross services.

  4. Mary Putnam Jacobi Jacobi received her MD degree from the Female (later Woman’s) Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864. She also managed to study at l’École de Médecine in Paris — the first woman to ever do so- so that she could get a better education than she could in the U.S. In 1872, she created the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women to address inequities that she discovered in medicine, such as the fact that her female peers in existing women’s medical schools could not provide the same clinical experience as major hospitals. Jacobi was the first woman accepted into the New York Academy of Medicine, but her work on debunking menstruation myths is one of her most notable achievements. In response to a book by a Harvard professor that argued exertion — including mental exertion like studying — during menstruation was dangerous, Jacobi laid out an insightful counterargument proving the soundness of women’s strength throughout their cycle. Her paper — chock-full of elaborate facts, charts, and numbers — won Harvard’s highly-regarded Boylston Prize and was a powerful instrument in women’s fight for better education.

  5. Virginia Apgar When she graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1933, Apgar hoped to pursue surgery, although she instead went on to study anesthesiology instead after a mentor discouraged her from being a surgeon. Soon after, she became the director of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital’s new division of anesthesia in 1938. Apgar went on to study the effects of anesthesia, labor, and delivery on a newborn’s health, and she is said to have invented her influential checklist in response to a question from a student in 1953. Before the Apgar score, physicians had little guidance on assessing and treating infants in their first hours, often losing babies who could have been saved. The Apgar score is the gold standard for determining the health of a newborn to this day. Apgar pursued a second career in her 50s, receiving a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and working at the March of Dimes as Vice President for Medical Affairs.

These five women are pioneers in the medical field, but they are not the only intelligent, insightful, and illustrious women who have shaped the landscape of healthcare. There are a great number of women who have dedicated their lives to advancing the medical field, and there are many women today who are actively working toward improving the lives of people everywhere with their dedication to healthcare. Every woman working tirelessly in the field of healthcare- whether they be a nurse on the floor, a phlebotomist in the lab, or a surgeon in the OR- we honor you today and thank you for what you do to help improve the lives of the people you directly or indirectly touch with your work.


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