Maria Dalle Donne (1778-1842) was the first woman to ever obtain a doctorate in
medicine. She achieved this in 1799 at the University of Bologna.
Her research focused on female reproduction and
fertility, as well as neonatal medical issues. She was the second woman to ever
become a member of the prestigious Ordine
dei Benedettini Accademici Pensionati, and in 1832 she became the Director of the Department of Midwifery at
the University of Bologna.
Natalia Tanner (1922-2018) was an African American physician. She dedicated her
career to fighting inequality and providing opportunities for people of colour
in the medical world in the United States.
After finishing medical school in
Nashville, she started working for Harlem Hospital in New York. Later she
became the first African-American resident at the University of Chicago and the
first to become a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Cicely Saunders (1918-2005) was an English physician and social worker. She is
remembered for her important role in developing the hospice movement in the
She studied at Oxford, and later at the
Nightingale School of Nursing. In 1967, after years of research into palliative
care, she established the first purpose-built hospice in the world, St Christopher’s
Hospice, in London. She received numerous accolades for her work, including the
1981 Templeton Prize, the world’s highest-value annual prize.
Peters (1911-1993) was a Canadian oncologist. She conducted
lifesaving research in the field of breast cancer.
She graduated from the University of Toronto
in 1934. In 1950, she revealed a cure for patients with early Hodgkin’s
disease, considered uncurable at the time. She also discovered that breast-conserving
surgery, followed by radiation, was just as effective as mastectomy for cases
of breast cancer, which greatly improved the lives of patients. She received
several awards and honorary doctorates for her work.
was an American nurse, known for her public health advocacy and numerous
projects. She served as Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing for
almost 30 years.
She received her
doctorate from New York University and went on to work in various hospitals and
universities throughout the United States. Under her leadership at VUSN, the
university introduced an accelerated master’s programme and a PhD programme. She
was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing.
Ionescu (1920-2008) was a Romanian neurosurgeon,
thought to be one of the first female neurosurgeons in the world.
She studied medicine in Bucharest, and in
1943 became part of the first team of Romanian neurosurgeons. She continued practicing
the profession for almost five decades and received numerous awards for her
Ames (1920-2002) was a South African neurologist
and human rights activist. She led the medical ethics enquiry into the death of
Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist, an enquiry which showed that he had
been tortured and medically neglected, and led to the prosecution of the
She was the first woman to obtain a medical
degree from the University of Cape Town in 1964. She practiced medicine and
taught at Valkenberg Hospital until six weeks before she died. In 1999, Nelson
Mandela awarded her the Star of South Africa, the country’s highest civilian
was a British physician. She is considered the major contributor to the field
of hepatology (the study of the liver) in the 20th century.
After being rejected
from several English universities on account of her sex, she eventually began studying
medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1936. She became the first female
Professor of Medicine in the United Kingdom in 1959, working at the Royal Free
Hospital School in London. She served as the President of the British Society
of Gastroenterology and founded the British Liver Trust.
Faye Glenn Abdellah (1919-2017) was the
first nurse officer to achieve the rank of two-star rear admiral in the U.S. She was also the first
woman to ever hold the position of Deputy Surgeon General of the United States
Public Health Service.
She obtained her PhD from Columbia University
and conducted pioneering research in nursing, changing the theory from a
disease-oriented to a patient-oriented approach. In 1989 she became the first
dean of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Anna Mae Hays
the first woman to be promoted to a General Officer rank in the U.S. Armed
Forces. Throughout her career, she strove to fight occupational sexism and
promote the integration of women into the military.
She joined the Army Nurse Corps during World
War II and served in India for more than two years. She was appointed Chief of
the Nurse Corps in 1967, a position which she held until her retirement in 1971.
Her recommendations, which were accepted into military policy, included stopping
the practice of discharging officers for being pregnant and allowing male
spouses of service members to claim the same privileges as female ones.