Clara Raven, MD, Colonel AUS-Retired was a trailblazer for women in medicine both in her career achievements and her contributions to the body of medical knowledge. She graduated from the University of Michigan with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and went on to become the only female student in her medical school class at Duke University. After transferring to Northwestern University Medical School under a quota system limiting enrollment of female students to just four spots, she received her MD degree in 1938.

Dr. Raven was a research fellow in England at the University of Liverpool just before World War II began in Europe. Upon her return to the U.S., she volunteered to serve in the army, but was not admitted until 1943, when legislation was finally passed, allowing women physicians to become commissioned officers of the military. She became one of the first five women physicians commissioned to serve and through her work, contributed to the research of hepatitis in both Europe and East Asia and hemorrhagic fever in the latter.

In 1958, Dr. Raven became the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner of Wayne County in Michigan.  In 1961, she became the first female physician to achieve the rank of full colonel in the Army Medical Corps. She conducted over 20 years of research on the cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, bringing her expertise to a U.S. Senate subcommittee in the hopes of increasing funding for research and counseling around SIDS.

Dr. Raven was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. In addition to the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, she received the Michigan State Medical Flag Award and the 1962 Northwestern Alumni Merit Award. She was the first female officer to become a member of the Military Order of World Wars and the Association of Military Surgeons, a nod to her trailblazing presence and achievement in the armed forces.


Source: Michigan Women Forward  (accessed April 29, 2021)


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