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.
Marie Durocher (1809-1893) was a Brazilian
physician, specialised in obstetrics. She was the first female doctor in Latin America.
She obtained her
degree from the Medical School of Rio de Janeiro in 1834, after which she
practiced her profession for 60 years. She cared for pregnant women and helped deliver
babies from all social classes, from the poorest to the grandchildren of the
Emperor. In 1871 she became the first female member of the National Academy of
Vera Brittain (1893-1970) was a nurse, feminist and pacifist during both world wars. Her 1933 memoir, Testament of Youth, was a bestseller that described her experiences as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment during World War I.
Her pacifist efforts during the wars focused on providing medical aid, working as a fire warden, and raising funds for food relief campaigns. She wrote extensively for the magazine Peace News, condemning apartheid and colonialism and encouraging nuclear disarmament.
Sally Davies (b. 1949) is the Chief Medical
Officer in England, the first woman to hold the position. She specializes in
the treatment of diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
She became the Director-General of Research and
Development for London, and created the National Institute for Health Research.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
Ghada Karmi (b. 1939) is a
doctor and academic from Palestine. She is a lecturer at the Institute of Arab &
Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, and frequently writes about
Palestinian issues in a number of British publications.
medicine at the University of Bristol, and specialised in the health and
conditions of ethnical minorities and migrants. She is also a fellow at the
Royal Institute of International Affairs and vice-chair of the Council for Arab-British
Florence Sabin (1871-1953)
was a pioneering medical scientist. She was the first woman elected to the
National Academy of Sciences, the first to hold a full professorship at Johns
Hopkins School of Medicine, and the first to head a department at the
Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
She studied medicine at Johns Hopkins and
started teaching in 1902, becoming the first female full professor by 1917. She
became the first female president of the American Association of Anatomists in
1921. Her advocacy for health reform led to the creation of the “Sabin
Health Laws” which modernised public hospitals in Colorado.
Margaret Rhea Seddon (b.
1947) is a former NASA astronaut and physician. She flew as mission specialist, and
later payload commander, on three Space Shuttle flights.
She has a
Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Tennessee. Her NASA career began
in 1979, where she worked in a variety of fields, from organising medical
experiments to technical assistance. After retiring from NASA, she became the
assistant Chief Medical Officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group.