DHHS, NIH News  
National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Robert Mehnert
Kathy Cravedi
(301) 496-6308

National Institutes of Health Exhibition
“Changing the Face of Medicine”
Honors the Lives and Achievements of Outstanding American Women Physicians

Bethesda, Maryland — They overcame prejudice and discrimination to create and broaden opportunities within the profession. Persistence, ingenuity, and ability enabled them to advance in all areas of science and medicine. They are among the very best of America’s women physicians and now they are being saluted in “Changing the Face of Medicine,” an interactive exhibition opening October 14, 2003 at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), an arm of the National Institutes of Health.

The exhibition features stories from a rich diversity of women physicians and a broad range of medicine that they practice in communities across the United States. Some of the hundreds of women you will learn about include:

  • A New York native who became the first woman of color to lead a U.S. medical school;
  • A Massachusetts native who as a young child with polio had two ambitions, to be a doctor and win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating. She succeeded at both;
  • A New York native and Irish American physician who became the first woman to direct the National Institutes of Health;
  • A California Hispanic American who became the chief of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente and volunteers her time removing tattoos from young gang members;
  • A Dayton, Ohio native and colonel who became the first woman flight surgeon to enter into combat with the U.S. Army’s 2-229th attack helicopter battalion during the Gulf War;
  • A Maryland native who is the first and only woman to be a team orthopedic surgeon in the National Football League;
  • A Fort Wayne, Nebraska native, pediatrician and surgeon who became the health correspondent for ABC television’s Good Morning America, reporting from around the world on a wide range of medical topics;
  • A South Dakota native who became the first woman appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia;
  • An Indiana native who was the first woman to be named commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration;
  • A native of Puerto Rico and pediatrician who became the first woman and first Hispanic to become Surgeon General of the United States;
  • A Virgin Islands native who became the first woman physician in the U.S. Congress;
  • A New Yorker who became the first full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and designed the Apgar Score, the first standardized method for evaluating a newborn’s transition to life outside the womb;
  • A Virginia native who became chief medical examiner of Virginia, the state’s highest position in forensic science;
  • A Pennsylvania native and pediatrician who is the first woman appointed editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association;
  • A New Jersey native who became the first woman physician-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, and the first woman to chair a major department at Harvard Medical School; and
  • A South Carolina psychiatrist who is the state’s first telepsychiatrist conducting sign language consultations via videolink with deaf patients across the state.

“Changing the Face of Medicine” honors the achievements of American women in medicine, past and present. Some have developed innovative medical procedures. Some have won the Nobel Prize. Others have brought attention to the health and well being of children. Many have reemphasized the art of healing and the roles of culture and spirituality in medicine.

“Women waged a lengthy battle to gain access to medical education and hospital training,” noted Elizabeth Fee, Ph.D., Director of NLM’s History of Medicine Division. “Since winning those struggles, women from diverse backgrounds have carved out successful careers in areas as diverse as sports medicine, space medicine, and surgery.”

The contributions of these remarkable women are showcased in artifact, textile and digital-portrait galleries as well as in an “activity zone” with interactive installations.

The exhibition has a companion Web site at www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine. The site will let people around the world discover the history of America’s women physicians, and learn more about educational and professional resources for those considering medicine as a career. For teachers there are lesson plans with ready-made classroom activities that incorporate the science of the exhibition’s doctors and align with national learning standards. There is a section called “Share Your Story,” where people can add stories about outstanding woman physicians they know, whether family members, mentors, or their own doctors.

“Women have brought fresh perspectives to the medical profession,” said Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine. “They have turned the spotlight on issues that had previously received little attention, such as the social and economic costs of illness and the low numbers of women and minorities entering medical school and practice.”

“This exhibition will have the broadest possible appeal,” Lindberg continued. “Although it focuses on the personal and professional triumphs of women in medicine, its lessons in persistence, dedication and excellence will speak to people in all professions — men, women, and young people alike.”

The National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library, is located on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. “Changing the Face of Medicine” is on the first floor of NIH Building 38, at Rockville Pike and Center Drive. The exhibition is open to the public and admission is free. Visiting hours are: 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday–Friday (and 5:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m., Thursdays between Labor Day and Memorial Day) and 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Saturday. NLM is closed Sundays and federal holidays. For directions, security information, and other visitor information, please consult the Library’s Web site at www.nlm.nih.gov.

Editor’s note: Photos of women physicians featured in the exhibition are available via email at: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov. Pre-opening tours for the press will be available beginning October 9, 2003. Call Kathy Cravedi, NLM Office of Communication and Public Liaison, at (301)496-6308 or email her at: kcravedi@nlm.nih.gov to schedule.

NIH logo   Home > News & Events
Subscribe to receive future NIH and HHS press releases