Celebrate Women’s History Month with these frontline pioneers
Famous Every March, Women’s History Month honors the contributions women in history, society, and cultural. This year theme — “Women Provide Healing, Promoting Hope” — salutes both the brave frontline workers of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the countless women who have brought healing and hope throughout history.
Here are two misunderstood female health care pioneers who have helped make the world a safer place.
Elizabeth Blackwell, who made the story in 1849 on becoming the first woman to earn a medical degree in America, didn’t even want to be a doctor. She was happy to be a teacher — a plus”that suits” career for women in the 19th century. She only decided to to chase medicine after a close friend, who was dying of cancer, told her experience would have been better under the care of a female doctor.
The male doctors Blackwell spoke to all thought it was a good idea but impossible to to reach. Medical universities were expensive and, more importantly, inaccessible to women. Without getting discouraged, then 25, he applied to more than 20 medical schools in the United States. All rejected her except Geneva Medical College in western New York. It was later revealed that the Faculty and the all-male student body had voted for Blackwell as a joke. They didn’t expect her to attend, let alone get a medical degree. Blackwell proved them wrong by graduating at the top of his class!
In 1857 Blackwell recruited her sister Emily – the third woman to earn a medical degree in America – and a doctor friend establish the New York infirmary for indigent women and children. The free clinic provided women doctors with much-needed training and experience. She also founded the Women’s Medical College at the New York Infirmary – the first all-female four-year medical college. The pioneer continued to attorney for women in medicine until her death in 1910 at the age of 89. Since 2016, Blackwell’s birthday – February 3 – has been appointed National Women Doctors Day.
Dr. Kathrin Jansen
When Dr. Kathrin Jansen, Head of Vaccine Research and Development at Pfizer Inc., heard about the very contagious COVID-19 outbreak in China, she suspected it might spiral out of control. But the Hungarian-born biochemist would never have imagined that she would soon be leading a team of more than 700 researchers tasked with creating a effective Vaccine against covid19.
by Jansen fascination with medicine began at a young age, thanks to her father’s ability to cure her frequent throat infections and cough. “You’re a little person, and you have this violent cough, and you feel sick as a dog,” she recalled. “And then you get this medicine. And it makes you feel better.”
A few years after obtaining his doctorate. in 1984, Jansen took a job at Merck’s vaccines division. His first challenge was to create a vaccine against the human papillomavirus, which was believed to cause cervical cancer in the 1980s. Jansen faced significant opposition, both researchers – who thought the vaccine wouldn’t work – and Merck’s financial gurus – who thought it wouldn’t be profitable. But she persisted. The Gardasil vaccine, approved in 2006, now earns Merck billions of dollars a year.
Soon after, Jansen moved to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, where she worked on the Prevnar 13 vaccine. Considered one of the most complicated vaccines ever made, it protects children against 13 strains of pneumococcus. Bacteria are responsible for ailments ranging from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and blood infections. When Jansen’s boss left Wyeth – now part of Pfizer – she was appointed leader of the vaccine research team – and the rest, as they say, is history!
Happy Women’s History Month!
Resources: Statnews.com, cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov, healthmatters. nyp.org, wokipedia.org