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  • Ann C Wood

How have female doctors in the US evolved over time?



Female Doctors in the USA

From the midwives of ancient times to Nobel Prize winners, the narratives of female doctors in the United States have undergone a remarkable evolution over the years. 


As per the new data report from AAMC ( American Association of Medical Colleges), In 2021, more than one-third ( 37.1%) of the active physicians workforce in the United States was female. 


The number of women doctors continues to grow and they are most apt to focus their practice on children and women. 


As we delve into the evolution of female doctors in the United States, let’s get back and witness a profound shift in attitude, policies, and opportunities that have reshaped the landscape of the Healthcare Industry.


Women in Medicine

Here are some examples of the first female doctors in the United States who defied Societal norms and created a way for future generations of female Physicians:

           

  1. The first female Physician in the United States: Dr Elizabeth Blackwell was the first female physician to earn a medical degree from New York’s Geneva Medical College in 1849. Despite facing significant opposition, Blackwell's perseverance opened doors for women in the medical profession.


  1. The first woman surgeon: Mary Edwards Walker, is recognised as the first woman surgeon employed by the U.S Army. She was awarded for her contributions to military medicine in 1865.


  1. The first Woman psychiatrist: Lozy Dorothy Ozarin, is thought to be the first women psychiatrist in the United States. From 1943 to 1946, she served in the Navy where she is recognized for having a remarkable career in psychiatry (and only one of seven women Navy Psychiatrists in World War ll.)


Evolution of Female Doctors in the United States:


  1. The Initial struggles: It was the mid-19th century when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree. Blackwell’s achievement marked a pivotal moment challenging the popular notion that medicine was a male-dominated profession.  Her journey to be the first Woman Doctor in America is not an easy feat. In her book, Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, published in 1895, Dr Blackwell wrote that she was initially shocked by the idea of medicine.  She had no idea how to become a physician, so she consulted with several physicians. They told her it was a fine idea but impossible as such education was not available to women. Yet Blackwell remained determined and applied to 12 plus medical schools in the northeast states and was accepted by Geneva Medical College in western New York state in 1847. 

     


  1. Continuation of Gains in Women Medicine: After the foundation was laid by Dr. Blackwell, a steady stream of notable physicians emerged, including Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African American to obtain an MD in 1864. Despite the relentless racism she received, she continued to treat the free slaves after the World War ended.  


  1. The struggles for Acceptance:  Despite the tremendous gains for women in the 19th century, the early 20th century imposed several challenges on aspiring female doctors. Different standards and discriminatory practices hindered their professional advancement, limiting opportunities in fields like nursing. 


  1. The turning point for medical women: Before World War, only 4 % of medical students were female. The turning point came during World War ll when men were enrolled in the armed forces. The shortage of male physicians opened the doors for female doctors to demonstrate their competence and dedication.


  1. The Postwar era: During this time, different laws were passed that furthered the women’s health movement and increased the number of women applicants in medicine. The Title IX of the Educational Amendment of 1972, prohibited discrimination based on sex in educational institutes receiving financial funding from the federal government. 


  1. The recent trends: In the 21st Century, female doctors continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of Healthcare in the United States. Now, female doctors are making significant contributions across all specialties, from the COVID-19 pandemic to disparities in healthcare access and outcomes.  Their unique perspective and experiences have continued to fill the wide gap and a commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system for all.


Looking Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities


Despite the continuous gains and progress made in recent decades, female doctors still face several barriers in the medical profession. Gender bias, pay inequity issues, and work-life balance issues continue to pose challenges for women pursuing careers in medicine. 

Conclusion


Prime Financial Services applauds the strength and resilience of all these incredible women.


Through ups and downs, and determination, female doctors in the USA have continued to grow and shape the future of healthcare.


As we celebrate their achievements and contributions, let us reaffirm our commitment to creating a more equitable healthcare system for all.


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