National Women Physicians Day: Honoring Elizabeth Blackwell, the First Female American Medical Doctor

elizabeth-blackwell_1821-1910
Elizabeth Blackwell circa 1850. © Museum of the City of New York/Getty Images

English-born Elizabeth Blackwell, 1821–1910, was the first woman to receive an MD degree from an American medical school, Geneva Medical College in New York, 1849. Her specialty was obstetrics-gynecology. Bios: National Library of Medicine and Encyclopædia Britannica

National Women Physicians Day was founded by Hala Sabry, DO (Doctor of Osteopathy), an emergency medicine physician, and was celebrated for the first time on February 3, 2016.


 

According to the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) (staff communication 2/3/17, “Celebrate Today and Pave the Way for Tomorrow!”), women physicians are a growing group—in 2010, nearly one-third of all physicians were women, compared with 24 percent in 2000 and 11 percent in 1990. And those numbers are continuing to rise. In the osteopathic profession today, more than 40 percent of DOs in active practice are women, and 56 percent of DOs in practice for less than 10 years are female.

The American Medical Association (AMA), which includes doctors of medicine (MDs) and doctors of osteopathy (DOs), states in its Women Physicians Section (WPS) that the number of female physicians in medicine has been steadily increasing and currently stands at 74,000. And its publication A Profile & History of Women in Medicine includes the following statistics:

– In 2013, 31.9 percent of all physicians were women and 45.3 percent of all residents and fellows were women.
– Between 1980 and 2013, the number of female physicians increased by 514 percent.
– Since 1975, the number of female physicians has grown more than six-fold, from 35,626 to 333,294 in 2013.

Not only are women advancing in medicine, but some say they may even be improving the quality of healthcare: Women Doctors May Be Better for Patients’ Health (Kaiser Health News, Contributor | USNews.com / News / Healthcare of Tomorrow, 12/19/16)

So much to honor and celebrate!


L0019497 Portraits of E. Blackwell, E.Garrett Anderson, .S Jex-Blake Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Portraits of Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Sophia Jex-Blake Medical Women's Foundation The jubilee appeal. 1866-1916 the New Hospital for Women, London Published: circa 1916 ? Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Portraits of Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and Sophia Jex-Blake. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

The first three women fully accredited doctors: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836–1917), flanked in the image by Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1901), whose campaigning inspired her, and Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake (1840–1912), who paved the way for other women to gain a medical education without exploiting loopholes in the old system and also founded a women’s hospital in Edinburgh and a school of medicine there. Text: Victorian Web

Read more about the fascinating and inspiring history of women physicians:

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