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  • Writer's pictureAshley Winkfield

The Changing Face of Medicine

Today is National Women Physician’s Day! We want to celebrate and honor the successes of all of the women physicians who have paved the way for us and will come after us.

Dr. Karen at her PhD graduation with her husband Jeff. Dr. Tiffany receiving her medical degree. And Dr. Zanetta posing with her degree and Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice

This day marks the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States in 1849. Dr. Blackwell initiated the movement that helped women gain entry and equality in the field of medicine. While we have come so far, we still strive to bring improvements to the workplace for the growing number of women physicians entering the field of medicine, especially Black women.

As of 2020, Black women made up only 2% of providers, but the number of Black female graduates has been steadily growing since the 80s. Experts agree that Black providers are a critical piece of the puzzle in reducing health disparities - and this becomes abundantly true when it comes to the care of Black female patients. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rates during pregnancy and are more likely to suffer from pregnancy-related complications, including death. Historically speaking, the obstetrics and gynecology field, in particular, is plagued with experimental surgeries done on enslaved Black women without anesthesia, contributing to a general distrust in providers among Black patients (Listen to Episode 3: Iatrophobia and Vaccines). It's been proven Black patients who receive care from Black doctors report greater trust and communication than those who see non-Black providers.

Today, let’s honor the women who paved the way for all Black women physicians. Women like:

  • Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who was the first Black woman to be a physician in 1864.

  • Dr. Muriel Petioni, the “Matron of Harlem Health” who was known for her commitment to women’s issues, healthcare for the underserved, community medicine, and social justice.

  • Dr. Jane Cook Wright, who developed new techniques for administering chemotherapy and evaluating new treatments for the disease

  • The Docs - Dr. Zanetta Lamar, Dr. Karen Winkfield, & Tiffany Avery - who are committed to educating the community about health disparities and ways to improve their own health and wellness.

  • And countless other Black women who have overcome insurmountable odds to become physicians in various disciplines.

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