In the United States, female physicians account for 36% while their male counterparts represent 64%. However, the number of females enrolling and graduating in medical schools is increasing each year. Along the same line, only 5.7% are black medics in the US. This is a low percentage keeping in mind black population in America is 12% of the total population.
The National Women Physicians Day is an annual celebration held on February 3rd to honor the achievements and contributions of women in the field of medicine. It’s a day to crown the many ways women have made a positive impact on healthcare, from groundbreaking research to providing compassionate care to patients.
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7 Black Medics in the US
The reason why many black women are in the medical field is because they fought for inclusion and recognition. It wasn’t an easy ride. From facing discrimination and limited opportunities to sexism, black community has endured a lot yet didn’t hesitate in pioneering achievements.
The first woman from the African-American community to graduate in medical college was Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895).
Here is a list of 7 black medics in the US who should be acknowledged as we celebrate this annual observance. They are just a small number from the countless female doctors now practicing in the US.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler
The Legacy of Rebecca Lee Crumpler. Video credit: Boston U Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
Rebecca Lee Crumpler, born Rebecca Davis in 1831, was a woman of many firsts in American history. In 1864, she graduated from the New England Female Medical College, shattering barriers in a time when both racial and gender prejudice heavily restricted opportunities in medicine.
Also, she published the book, “A Book of Medical Discourses,” becoming one of the first female physician authors in the 19th century and in the field of health care. Her key achievements were:
- Pioneering community outreach
- Focusing on Children and women’s health
- Advocating for healthcare equity
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Underrepresentation in science and medicine. Video credit: Mappd
Her childhood dream of seeing more and more children from marginalized communities study science and medicine propelled her to her success. Through the Rhodes Scholarship, 2018 recipient, she graduated with Merit from Oxford. This earned her an M.Phil in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.
In 2023, she wrote a book, “Twice as Hard: The Stories of Black Women who Fought to Become Physicians, from the Civil War to the 21st Century.”
She’s realizing her dream by sharing information about black female doctors who came before her. She’s among the majority of physicians who are sharing knowledge through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Thus, giving hope to young black girls who think they can’t make it or are not good enough.
Hers is a testament of the ongoing contributions of female physicians.
Helen Octavia Dickens, MD
Talking about Dr Helen’s achievements. Video credit: Girlswhocode
Here’s another remarkable figure who left a significant mark on the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, with special emphasis on women of color.
In 1950, Helen overcame all obstacles to be the First African American woman admitted to the American College of Surgeons. Also, she dedicated herself to improving women’s health, particularly focusing on the needs of underserved communities.
Edith Irby Jones, MD
Edith Irby Jones defied segregation in the South and became the first African American to attend and graduate from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Through her exceptional resilience and skills, she was able to work as an intern in white dominated hospitals.
Furthermore, in 1985, she broke the ceiling and became the first woman president of the National Medical Association. Her 50 years of practice saw her serve diverse communities in Texas, Arkansa and even in Mexico and Haiti.
Lillian M Beard, MD
She’s the author behind, “Salt in Your Sock and Other Tried-and-True Home Remedies.” Besides her passion and practice in pediatric medicine, Lillian Beard is also a health care educator. She loves sharing her knowledge through the TVs, Newspapers, and radios.
After being in practice for over 40 years, Lillian currently attends to her patients in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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Marilyn Hughes Gaston, MD
Black history in health care. Video Credit: Take Phive
Marilyn Hughes graduated as the only woman and only African American in her class. This was in Miami University and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Dr. Gaston specialized in pediatrics, focusing on improving care for disadvantaged children and families. She significantly improved the management of sickle cell disease through her intense research at the National Institutes of Health.
Also, during her career, she assumed the helm of Rear Admiral in the US Public Health Service.
Regina Marcia Benjamin, MD
Regina Benjamin at TEDMED2011. Video Credit: TEDMED
Her most renowned achievement was serving as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States from 2009 to 2013. She served under president Barack Obama. However, she had other accolades before this. For instance:
- She founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, serving uninsured and underinsured patients
- She held numerous leadership roles in professional organizations like the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the American Medical Association
- As a surgeon general, she focused on public health challenges like obesity, mental health, and cancer prevention
The National Women Physicians day celebrates the trailblazing spirit of Elizabeth Blackwell and others such as Harriet Tubman. The black medics in the US have significantly increased in the number of women doctors. To celebrate this day use the hashtags,#womenphysiciansday or #nationalwomenphysiciansday.
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