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Women’s Medical Contributions Throughout History

Women’s Medical Contributions Throughout History

March is about commemorating and observing the vital role of women’s contributions in history. Townsen Memorial is celebrating by highlighting some of history’s most influential women that have changed the field of medicine.

Metrodora (C. 200-400 Ad)

Metrodora was a Greek female physician and author of On the Diseases and Cures of Women which is the oldest known medical text written by a woman. Her work has been referenced often by other medical writers. Metrodora is known to have covered all areas of medicine related to women, including gynecology, but not obstetrics. She developed various therapies and surgical techniques that were revolutionary in her time.

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. She graduated first in her class in 1849, and in 1957, she opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children along with her sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell, and Dr. Marie Zakrzewska. She has served as an inspiration to many women in the medical field today through her book Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women. 

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Marie Curie worked with her husband to discover two chemical elements in the periodic table: polonium and radium. This discovery led to many medical advancements including the development of the x-ray. During World War 1, Curie developed mobile x-ray machines that she brought to the frontlines to diagnose injuries in wounded soldiers. She received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and another in Chemistry in 1911. She later went on to create the Curie Institute in Paris in 1920. Today, the institute still serves as a leading medical research center. 

Gerty Cori (1896-1957)

Another Nobel Prize winner, Gerty Cori, earned the award for her work in medicine/physiology in 1947. She worked with her husband, Carl Ferdinand Cori, to prove vital concepts in genetics. Their work led to the discovery that an enzyme deficiency could be responsible for metabolism disorders. They also carried out multiple studies on the action of hormones, focusing on the pituitary gland. Throughout her lifetime, Cori won several other awards in recognition for her contributions to science and earned honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Boston University, Smith College, Yale, Columbia, and Rochester.

Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999)

American chemist Gertrude “Trudy” Belle Ellion shared a Nobel Prize with George H Hitchins and Sir James Black for innovative methods of rational drug design which focused on understanding the target of the drug rather than simply using trial and error. Elion came from a scientific background and was inspired to pursue medicine when her grandfather passed away from cancer when she was 15 years old. She became dedicated to discovering a cure for the disease. Using the methods she had designed, Elion and her team developed 45 patents, including drugs to combat leukemia, herpes, AIDS, and treatments to reduce the body’s rejection of foreign tissue in kidney transplants between unrelated donors. 

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Franklin is best known for her work in understanding the structure of DNA. Her identification of the double helix has led to huge advances in the field of genetics and modern medicine. Franklin also led pioneering work on the molecular structures of RNA viruses and Polio. Franklin had a passion for science from an early age and decided to become a scientist at the age of 15. She continued to work towards higher education against her father’s wishes and graduated from Cambridge University in 1941. She worked for many years as a first-rate scientist and died from cancer in 1958. Had it not been for her untimely death, it is highly likely she would have shared Nobel Prizes for the work she had a huge part in. 

Patricia Goldman-Rakic (1937-2003)

Neuroscientist Patricia Goldman-Rakic is recognized for her studies of the brain, particularly, the frontal lobes and how it relates to memory. She received her bachelor’s degree in Neurology from Vassar in 1959, and then her doctorate from the University of California in Developmental Psychology in 1963. Her research significantly contributed to the understanding of neurological diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Additionally, her study of dopamine and its effects on the brain is essential to modern-day understanding of conditions such as schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Townsen Memorial Hospital Is Here For You

At Townsen Memorial, we have trailblazing women among our medical staff. We are proud to support them as they work to make a difference in our society. Safe, effective, and affordable care is our top priority and we strive to provide the best patient experience across all Townsen Memorial affiliated sites. The high-quality care starts at our Emergency Room and carries on through our Imaging Centers, Surgery Centers, and up through our Townsen Memorial Hospital. Our medical sites are located in Houston, TX, and the surrounding areas, to provide the best care to patients in and around Harris County. To learn more, visit our website or call 1-877-494-9487.

Medical History, women in healthcare