Mathilda R. Vaschak, MD (1910-1996), a specialist in occupational medicine, was the second woman in the United States to become a diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine and Public Health. She was recognized by the New Jersey Medical Women’s Association as a “pioneer woman physician” and by the New Jersey Medical Association (1986) for her career in medicine that spanned 50 years. She was honored by the American Medical Women’s Association with its most prestigious award, the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal. Although her career focused on industrial medicine and occupational health, her colleagues recognized her as an activist promoting the achievements of women in medicine, as well as the access of the poor to health care. To that end, she served as trustee of the American Medical Women’s Association’s American Hospital Service Committee, which provides funding for clinics serving the poor worldwide. She also served as the president of the Pan-American Medical Women’s Association, the New Jersey Industrial Medicine Association, and the New Jersey Medical Women’s Association (Branch 4 of the American Medical Women’s Association).
Dr. Vaschak was born August 30, 1910 in Youngstown, Ohio. She attended Western Reserve University, Cleveland (1932) and Women’s Medical College, Philadelphia (1936). She taught at State Teachers College in Albany, NY and was the staff physician for both Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and American Telephone and Telegraph Corp. in New York City before joining the medical services department of E.R. Squibb in New Brunswick, NJ where she was medical director for 10 years. She reminded her son that she became a physician despite not knowing any English on the first day of first grade, having a father that wished her to join the family funeral home business instead of going to university and medical school, and having few women mentors and models preceding her in the profession.
Her husband, L. Robert Oaks, was a strong supporter of AMWA, recipient of AMWA’s Camille Mermod Award for his public relation services to AMWA and was known in the association for the famed Bob Oaks Tours, sightseeing excursions which he organized for attendees at the AMWA annual meetings.
AMWA Physician Files, The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of MedicineReturn to AMWA Blackwell Exhibit