This is just the fourth National Women Physicians Day. The event celebrates Elisabeth Blackwell’s birthday; she was the first female medical doctor in the U.S. It’s a time to honor women doctors across the country, and the progress they’ve made since Blackwell’s time. Nationally, there are still fewer female doctors than male doctors, but the progress is steady. In 2017, for the first time in history, women made up more than half of all those in medical schools.
National Women Physicians Day - History
Nigeria's first woman doctor
Nigerian gynecologist Dr. Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi was the country's first woman doctor.
Feb. 3, 1921
Elizabeth Blackwell was born
Blackwell, the first female doctor in the U.S., faced medical school rejection letters with statements about her intellectual inferiority.
England's Henry VIII granted the charter for the Company of Barber-Surgeons
It led to healthcare specialization and barred women from practicing professionally.
How to Observe National Women Physicians Day
1. Thank your physician
If you see a female doctor, thank her for her work. Make sure she knows you appreciate the time and care she provides.
2. Post to social media
Get on Twitter or Facebook and share stories and/or history of women doctors. Use #NationalWomenPhysiciansDay or #WomenPhysiciansDay.
3. Binge-watch your favorite women doctors
From Dr. Quinn to Dr. Meredith Grey, TV has given us well-rounded, strong, smart women we can look up to in the medical profession. Grab a bowl of popcorn and take the journey with them.
5 Kick-Butt (Medical) Women Who Should Be Your Heroes
1. Marie Curie
Her work on radiation led to medical advances, including cancer treatments.
2. Florence Nightingale
She was the first woman to receive the Order of Merit for her work during the Crimean War.
3. Maria Montessori
Montessori, the first woman in Italy to get a medical degree, developed the eponymous education system that encourages exploration and hands-on learning.
4. Rosalind Elsie Franklin
This British biophysicist's work with x-ray DNA images led to the discovery of DNA's double helix.
5. Virginia Apgar
She developed the Apgar score, which measures a newborn baby's health — and was Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons' first female "full" professor.
Why National Women Physicians Day is Important
A. It brings discrimination in the medical field to light
Medicine is historically dominated by men. Women in these professions, especially physicians, face challenges and obstacles that make entering the field more difficult. Also, women healthcare providers still earn less than men.
B. It celebrates women's contributions to the field
Studies have shown that patients cared for by women doctors have better health outcomes. Also, patient readmittance and mortality rates are both significantly lower within the same hospital.
C. Women make up a third of the physician workforce
Male doctors still make up the majority of physicians, but medical schools are about 50/50, with women having a slight edge. In general, the field is seeing more diversity. From 2015 to 2017, black medical students increased by nearly 13 percent, while Hispanic students rose by more than 15 percent.