Women Physicians at Rush, 1900-1920

Herrick Lecture - Banner SizeBy Nathalie Wheaton

Of the 961 physicians on the faculty of Rush Medical College — nearly all of whom also provide patient care at Rush University Medical Center — 391 are women. That number of women doctors at Rush today is an extraordinary shift from 1903, when the college graduated its first class that included women — eight in all, compared to 250 men.

Since March is Women’s History Month, I wanted to share some of the history of the first women doctors to practice at Rush and to graduate from Rush Medical College (which has its own proud history dating back to 1837).

I’ll begin with a little historical background of the time when these women came to Rush and the circumstances surrounding them. Then we’ll look at four women doctors — two of the first women to graduate from Rush Medical College; the college’s first woman faculty member; and the first woman staff member at Presbyterian Hospital, one of the predecessors of Rush University Medical Center.

Continue reading

From the Archives: First Female Residents, 1941

By Heather Stecklein

St. Luke’s Hospital, a predecessor to Rush University Medical Center, recruited its first female residents in 1941.

Anne Holovachka, MD, was a resident in neuropsychiatry who graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine. Mary Martin, MD, was a Borland Fellow in pathology who graduated from Northwestern Medical School.

Heather Stecklein is an archivist with Rush University Medical Center. You can contact the Archives at rush_archives@rush.edu or at (312) 942-7214.

Isabella Herb, First Woman on the Medical Staff

By Sarah Scheinman and Nathalie Wheaton

People often ask the Rush University Medical Center Archives staff who was the “first” — the first female student of Rush Medical College, for example, or maybe the first African-American on the hospital staff. The answers are often more complicated than people would like. And sometimes they are impossible to answer definitively. However, one first we’re sure of is the identity of the first woman on staff at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago. Presbyterian Hospital, founded in 1883 on this campus, was an early predecessor of Rush University Medical Center.

From 1909 to 1941, Herb was head of the department of anesthesia at Presbyterian Hospital, the first woman to join its medical staff. She also served as the first woman president of the American Association of Anesthetists. In her early career, she practiced as an anesthetist and pathologist in Augustana Hospital in Chicago, working with Lawrence Prince, MD, the major developer of open drop ether and chloroform anesthesia. In 1897, she first published her study surveying 1,000 cases of anesthetics at the hospital, “Observations on One Thousand Consecutive Cases of Anesthesia in the Service of Dr. A. J. Ochsner.Continue reading

Audiologist Relishes Mentoring Role at Rush

Our Q&A with Patricia McCarthy, PhD, a professor of audiology at Rush University, is part of a series celebrating women in medicine.

How and why did you get into audiology?

I recall vividly the exact moment when I decided to pursue audiology as a profession.  I was a junior in college and still playing around with my major. I was considering a major in speech-language pathology and was required to take an audiology course. As I walked home after the second meeting of “Introduction to Audiology,” it struck me that audiology was the perfect match for me.  I was 21 years old and I have never looked back.

I suspect I was attracted to audiology because of its rehabilitative component. While the diagnostic aspect of audiology is critical to hearing health care, I was attracted to the patient-centered treatment part of audiologists’ scope of practice.

It is often said that hearing loss doesn’t just affect the person with hearing loss, it affects the whole family. Furthermore, hearing loss can have an effect on every aspect of a person’s life: social, emotional, occupational, psychological, etc. Consequently, what happens after the diagnosis of hearing loss is critical. Individualized treatment planning that includes the patient’s communication partners makes the difference in whether or not the individual can “live well” with hearing loss. Continue reading

The ‘Lady Doctors’ at Rush Medical College

Rush archivist Nathalie Wheaton will present “Lady Doctors: Women Physicians at Rush Medical College, 1900-1920,” on Thursday, Jan. 13, noon to 1 p.m. in Armour Academic Center, Room 539.

Rush Medical College students, including several women, attend a teaching clinic by James B. Herrick, MD, in 1899.

By Nathalie Wheaton

As American women mobilized to obtain the right to vote at the beginning of the 20th century, many rebelled against the separate spheres ideal of femininity and sought equality with men in both the academic and professional arenas.

The Progressive Era, from the 1890s to 1920s, introduced vast social reforms, including standardization of medical education. The Flexner Report of 1910 exposed the disparities in quality among medical schools throughout the country, and called for higher standards for admission and graduation requirements, and more practical student experience.

Women navigated the changing waters as a small but consistent minority and paved the way for future generations of female physicians. Chicago, already world-renowned for its medical community, offered opportunities for women, but few prospered without facing struggles and outright discrimination. Continue reading

Nurse Practitioner, Professor Focuses on Prevention

Second in a series on women in health care

By Lynne Braun

I came to Rush over 30 years ago for the practitioner-teacher model, and to this day, I have both a faculty position in the College of Nursing and I practice as a nurse practitioner in the Heart and Vascular Institute.

As a professor in the College of Nursing, I teach most of the cardiovascular science, pharmacology and patient management content to graduate students. I also advise students, have committee responsibilities, and serve as co-investigator on a study funded by the NIH titled, “Reducing Health Disparity in African American Women: Adherence to Physical Activity.”

Maintaining an active clinical practice has always been very important to me. It grounds me, keeps me current in clinical and health care issues, makes me a better educator and researcher, and a credible leader in the national organizations with which I am involved. In my clinical practice, I focus on prevention, as I help my patients lower their risk for cardiovascular disease through lifestyle changes and drug therapies. Continue reading

Exhibit at Rush Celebrates Women in Medicine

Christine Frank, director of the Library of Rush University Medical Center.

By Christine Frank

The wait is almost over! It was March 2009 when I first began exploring the possibility of bringing the exhibit “Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians” to Rush University Medical Center. Finally, library staff is mounting the exhibit in the fourth-floor Atrium Lobby at Rush.

The official exhibition dates are Jan. 3-30, 2011. The exhibit tells the remarkable story of how women struggled for the right to study in medical schools and to practice medicine in the United States. “Changing the Face of Medicine” begins with Elizabeth Blackwell, who became the first woman to earn an MD degree in America in 1849, and ends with women doctors today, who have achieved success in work once considered “unsuitable” for a woman. Among them are Antonia Novello, the first woman surgeon general of the United States, and Lori Arviso Alvord, a Navajo physician who incorporates elements of traditional healing in her practice.

The Library of Rush University Medical Center is one of 84 libraries from across the country selected to host the exhibit after it was shown at the National Library of Medicine (NLM)  between 2003 and 2005. This is the first traveling NLM exhibit we have ever hosted. It’s particularly gratifying because the exhibit theme connects well with the issue of diversity to which Rush is so committed. Indeed, the Diversity Leadership Group (DLG) and the Provost’s Council on Gender Issues are sponsoring events in conjunction with the exhibit. And, the DLG has scheduled Diversity Week for the last week of January. Continue reading