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Honoring Women in Medicine: Past and Present Contributions

Published by Nicole Porter on

As we say goodbye to March, Women’s History Month is coming to a close. To wrap up this month-long celebration, we’d like to shine a light on women who have left an indelible mark on history through their contributions to health and medicine. Additionally, we can’t forget the recent achievements of women who will surely be remembered for their roles in developing the Covid-19 vaccine. We invite you to take a moment to learn about some of these remarkable female scientists featured below.

Women Who Paved The Way In Healthcare

As part of Women’s History Month, The National Academy of Medicine showcases the extraordinary contributions of female trailblazers who have devoted themselves to improving the well-being of others and advancing health and medicine. To find out more about the remarkable history of women in medicine visit:  NAM – Women’s History Month

Below are just a few of the notable women from their page:

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) made history as the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. Her sister, Emily Blackwell, also received a medical degree, becoming the third woman in the country to do so. During the American Civil War, both sisters played an instrumental role in supporting the war effort by providing aid to soldiers. They collaborated with the Woman’s Central Relief Association in their efforts to organize and provide relief services.

Mattiedna Johnson (1918-2003) made a significant contribution to the medical field by discovering a mold strain during her work as a laboratory technician that was found to be effective in curing scarlet fever. Despite her groundbreaking discovery that ultimately led to the development of Terramycin, a life-saving antibiotic, she was not given due credit. Nonetheless, her discovery has had a profound impact on improving the health and well-being of numerous individuals.

Helen Rodríguez Trías (1929-2001) was a renowned pediatrician, educator, and activist who played a critical role in raising awareness of the HIV and AIDS crisis among disadvantaged mothers and children in urban areas. Her advocacy efforts drew national attention to the issue. In 1993, she achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first Latina president of the American Public Health Association.

Women Scientists Behind The COVID-19 Vaccines

We couldn’t end the month without calling attention to all of the notable contributions made by women in healthcare throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic. Women in science have played many critical roles during this period, including serving as healthcare workers and pioneers in medical innovation. They have been at the forefront of vaccine research and have developed groundbreaking treatments. Their exceptional leadership has helped guide us toward a safer world while inspiring future generations of young girls to pursue careers in science and technology. 

Below are just a few of the women who have played an essential role in the development of the life-saving COVID vaccines:

Source: Wikipedia

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett played a key role in the US Government’s vaccine research, being part of the National Institutes of Health team that developed a vaccine with over 90% efficacy. Her contributions and leadership in vaccine research during the pandemic are particularly noteworthy given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black communities in the US and the historical underrepresentation of black women in science. Dr. Corbett hopes that her critical work will help inspire future generations of girls of color in science, who can see themselves in her success.

Source: Wikipedia

Özlem Türeci, a physician, scientist, entrepreneur, and global health leader, is the co-founder of the biotechnology company BioNTech. In 2020, her company made history by developing the first approved RNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, which brought a ray of hope during an otherwise unprecedented crisis. Türeci says researchers should focus on the things they want to change and the problems they want to solve, thinking broader and dreaming big.

Source: Wikipedia

Katalin Karikó‘s groundbreaking research on the therapeutic potential of mRNA was crucial in enabling the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, her idea of using mRNA to combat diseases was initially considered too unconventional and  financially risky to receive funding. Despite repeated grant rejections and even demotion from her position, Karikó persisted. Along with her former colleague Drew Weissman, she developed a method for using synthetic mRNA to treat diseases. Today, this discovery forms the foundation of the COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s easy to see the significance of women’s contributions to medicine, and it’s important to continue to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. By doing so, we can inspire and empower the next generation of women in medicine to pursue their dreams and make further advancements in healthcare. 

Thank you for joining us in honoring Women’s History Month.  We hope you’ve found the information we’ve shared to be useful and insightful.  For more information about these women and other women who’ve helped advance the fields of health and medicine, please see the links below. 


NAM – Women’s History Month

Women in science who are making a difference during the pandemic

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