Despite the fairer sex traditionally being considered more caring, there is still a significant discrepancy in terms of women actually being acknowledged for the important contributions they have made to the world of medicine.
On the Health Awareness annual calendar, there are now several dates that celebrate women. In May, there were three such dates: 5 May was the International Day of the Midwife, International Nurses Day was celebrated on May 12th, and the International Day of Action for Women’s Health was commemorated on 28th May.
Women these days are breaking barriers, trendsetters and have proven that nothing is impossible. Some of the best surgeons, specialists and doctors nowadays are women. Women are remarkable and are constantly making a difference in the medical field. We celebrate you. We salute you.
In this vein, we’d like to highlight four women who have made important contributions to medicine.
Not much is known about Peseshet, but historians believe she lived during the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt, between 2613 BC and 2494 BC. Peseshet was known as the “lady overseer of the female physicians”, and may even have had a hand in training midwives. She is considered to be the earliest known female physician in ancient Egypt.
Credited with penning the oldest medical text known to be written by a female doctor, “On the Diseases and Cures of Women,” Metrodora was a Greek physician who lived somewhere between 200 and 400 AD. Influenced by Hippocrates, Metrodora developed revolutionary surgical techniques and therapies, also influencing numerous physicians that came after her.
The discoveries that Marie Curie and her husband Pierre made about polonium and radium would ultimately famously lead to the development of one of the modern era’s greatest medical discoveries – the X-ray. Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize twice (in 1903 for Physics, and for Chemistry in 1911), and the Parisian Curie Institute, which she founded in 1920, remains one of the most prominent cancer research facilities in the world today.
Considered the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale is colloquially known as “The Lady With the Lamp”. International Nurses Day falls on Nightingale’s date of birth. The foundations she laid for nursing care would also become part and parcel of hospice care when Dame Cicely Saunders founded the first modern hospice care facility in the 1960s.
We salute the many women who have had a role to play in the development of modern medicine, and also tip our hats to the millions of women working in healthcare today.