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Honoring Women Physicians During Black History Month

This month, as we honor Black History Month, learn about these pioneering women physicians:

  • Dr. Patricia Bath – A pioneering ophthalmologist, inventor, and educator, Dr. Bath became the first African American female physician to complete a residency in ophthalmology in 1973. She also invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986, becoming the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent.
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin – Dr. Benjamin served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States from 2009 to 2013. Before her appointment, she founded the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, providing crucial healthcare services to the community regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.
  • Dr. Alexa Canady – The first African American female neurosurgeon in the United States, Dr. Canady was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery in 1984. Her career was largely spent at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, where she was chief of neurosurgery from 1987 until her partial retirement in 2001.
  • Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler – Recognized as the first African American woman to become a medicine doctor in the United States. She earned her medical degree in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College. Dr. Crumpler was dedicated to treating women and children in Boston and Richmond, VA, especially post-Civil War when medical care for formerly enslaved people was scarce.
  • Dr. Joycelyn Elders – The first African American appointed as the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Elders served from 1993 to 1994. Before her tenure as Surgeon General, she was a pediatrician and was recognized for her outspoken views on drug legalization, contraception, and sex education.
  • Dr. Roselyn Payne Epps – The first Black woman president of AMWA and the first African American woman president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. Dr. Epps is a recipient of the AMWA Blackwell Award.
  • Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston – A pediatrician whose research on sickle cell disease led to a nationwide test for newborns. Her work has significantly improved the management and treatment of sickle cell disease, especially among African American newborns.
  • Dr. Mae Jemison – Before becoming the first African American astronaut in space, Dr. Jemison was a general practitioner and attended Stanford University for her undergraduate degree and Cornell University for medical school. Her work has spanned multiple fields, including engineering and space travel, contributing significantly to STEM. Dr. Jemison is a recipient of the AMWA Blackwell Award.
  • Dr. Vivian Pinn was the Founding Director of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health and the first Black woman to chair an academic pathology department in the United States, at Howard University College of Medicine. Dr. Pinn is a recipient of the AMWA Blackwell Award.
  • Dr. Velma Scantlebury – The first African-American female transplant surgeon in the United States. She has performed over 1,000 kidney transplants and has been an advocate for organ donation, especially in the African American community.

To learn more about trailblazing women during Black History Month, read, Twice as Hard: The Stories of Black Women Who Fought to Become Physicians, from the Civil War to the 21st Century

AMWA Admin

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