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Women Influencing Healthcare

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Please add Women who have influenced or are/have been pioneers in healthcare.

If you’ve received a blood transfusion, had lifesaving radiation therapy, experienced a natural birth or even lost weight by counting calories, you have used one of the many health innovations given to us by women in medicine.

Women have influenced healthcare in many ways, both in direct & obvious ways (professional contributions & discoveries) as well as indirect & less obvious ways (developing exercise/workout tapes or establishing health related foundations).

Please be sure to include info regarding the woman's influence on healthcare in her About section.  It may be an obvious influence or contributions, such as Florence Nightingale, founder of the modern nursing field & Marie Curie & her radiology research & discoveries, to a more indirect influence or contribution, such as Jane Fonda & her exercise/workout tapes & Nancy Brinker who founded the Susan G Komen Foundation for breast cancer.


Historically to present day, in many parts of the world, women's participation in the profession of medicine (such as physicians or surgeons) has been significantly restricted. However, women's informal practice of medicine in roles such as caregivers or as allied health professionals has been widespread. Most countries of the world now provide women with equal access to medical education. However, not all countries ensure equal employment opportunities, and gender equality has yet to be achieved within medical specialties and around the world, despite studies suggesting that female doctors may be providing higher-quality care than male doctors.

  • Ancient medicine
    • The involvement of women in the field of medicine has been recorded in several early civilizations. An Egyptian of the Early Dynastic Period or Old Kingdom of Egypt, Merit-Ptah, described in an inscription as "chief physician", is the earliest woman named in the history of science. Agamede was cited by Homer as a healer in ancient Greece before the Trojan War. Agnodice was the first female physician to practice legally in 4th century BC Athens. Metrodora was a physician and generally regarded as the first medical writer. Her book, On the Diseases and Cures of Women, was the oldest medical book written by a female and was often referenced by many other female physicians. She credited much of her writings to the ideologies of Hippocrates.
    • Pioneering women in ancient medicine
      • Merit Ptah (2700 BC), earliest cited female physician
      • Agamede, pre-Trojan War healer
      • Agnodike was the first female physician to practice legally in 4th century BC Athens.
  • Medieval Europe
    • During the Middle Ages, convents were an important place of education for women, and some of these communities provided opportunities for women to contribute to scholarly research. An example is the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen, whose prolific writings include treatments of various scientific subjects, including medicine, botany and natural history (c.1151-58). She is considered Germany's first female physician.
    • Women in the Middle Ages participated in many healing techniques and capacities. According to historical documents, small numbers of women occupied almost all ranks of medical personnel during the period.
    • They worked as herbalists, midwives, surgeons, barber-surgeons, nurses, and traditional empirics.
    • Women treated everyone.
    • Women also engaged in midwifery and healing arts without leaving any trace of their activities in written records, and practiced in rural areas or where there was little access to medical care.
    • In many occasions, women had to fight against accusation of illegal practice done by males, putting into question their real motives. If they were not accused of malpractice, then women were considered "witches" by both clerical and civil authorities.
    • The southern Italian coastal town of Salerno was an important center of medical learning and practice in the 12th century. There, the physician Trota of Salerno gathered a number of her medical practices in several written collections. One work on women's medicine that was associated with her, the De curis mulierum ("On Treatments for Women") formed the core of what came to be known as the Trotula ensemble, a compendium of three texts that circulated throughout medieval Europe.
    • Dorotea Bucca was another distinguished Italian physician. She held a chair of philosophy and medicine at the University of Bologna for over forty years from 1390.[ Other Italian women whose contributions in medicine have been recorded include Abella, Jacqueline Felice de Almania, Alessandra Giliani, Rebecca de Guarna, Margarita, Mercuriade (14th century), Constance Calenda, Clarice di Durisio (15th century), Constanza, Maria Incarnata and Thomasia de Mattio.
  • Medieval Islamic world
    • For the medieval Islamic world, little specific information is known about female medical practitioners although it is likely that women were regularly involved in medical practice in some capacity.
      • Rufaida Al-Aslamia (7th century AD) Islamic medical and social worker recognized as the first female Muslim nurse
  • Western medicine in China
    • Traditional Chinese medicine based on the use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage and other forms of therapy has been practiced in China for thousands of years. However, Western Medicine was introduced to China in the 19th Century, mainly by medical missionaries sent from various Christian mission organizations, such as the London Missionary Society (Britain), the Methodist Church (Britain) and the Presbyterian Church (US).
    • Due to the social custom that men and women should not be near to one another, women of China were reluctant to be treated by Western male doctors. This resulted in a tremendous need for female doctors.
    • One of these was Sigourney Trask of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who set-up a hospital in Fuzhou during the mid-19th century. Trask also arranged for a local girl, Hü King Eng, to study medicine at Ohio Wesleyan Female College, with the intention that Hü would return to practice western medicine in Fuzhou.
  • Early modern era
    • In the early modern era, following the Middle Ages, accuracy in documentation of women present in the health field increased. This increase in documentation gave a clear representation of women engaged in the healthcare of London residents.
    • See: Wikipedia - Women in medicine for:
      • Historic women's medical schools
      • Historic hospitals with significant female involvement
      • Pioneering women in early modern medicine in the 18th, 19th & 20th centuries
      • Women’s health movement in the 1970’s

Notable Women involved in Healthcare:

  1. 16 Notable Women in Healthcare. by Stephanie Goraczkowski. 26 Aug 2017
  2. Who Am I? Twelve Notable Women in Medical History
  3. Wikipedia - List of first female physicians by country
  4. Wikipedia - List of first female pharmacists by country
  5. Wikipedia - List of first women dentists by country
  6. Huffpost - 50 Women Who Shaped America’s Health
  7. Global Citizen - These 5 women changed the face of medicine. by Katherine Curtiss. 11 April 2016
  8. Women in Health It - Meet the 2018 Most Influential Women in Health IT Awardees. 16 Jan 2018 (4 listed & assume all are living)
  9. Becker’s Hospital Review - 24 of the leading women to know in healthcare
  • Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)- Obstetrical Anesthesiologist; developed the Apgar Score & contributed to obstetrical findings to neonatal medicine
  • Clara Barton (1821-1912) - Nurse worked to formalize nursing education
  • Patricia Bath, MD (1942- ) - Founded the discipline of community ophthalmology; 1st female chair of an ophthalmology residency program in the US; invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986.
  • Dr Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) is considered Germany's first female physician; conducted and published comprehensive studies of medicine and natural science.
  • Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) - Started school in Daytona Beach, Florida, which today is a university with schools that include nursing, health sciences, science, engineering, and mathematics; founder of the National Council of Negro Women
  • Dr Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) - Physician -1st woman to earn actual medical degree in USA
  • Raquel C. Bono Vice Admiral Raquel C Bono, Director, Defense Health Agency
  • Nancy Brinker (1946) - Founder of Global Strategy of Susan G Komen Foundation for breast cancer; Is a breast cancer survivor & is a breast cancer activist
  • Gerty Cori' (1896-1957) - was a Jewish Czech-American biochemist who became the third woman—and first American woman—to win a Nobel Prize in science, and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
  • Dr Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) - Physician - 1st black woman to earn a medical degree in USA; (America Comes Alive! - Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895), Physician)
  • Marie Curie (1867-1934) - Physicist, Chemist; pioneered research on radioactivity, discovering radium and polonium, and she developed mobile radiography units, providing x-ray services to field hospitals in World War I.
  • Margaret Oakley Dayhoff (1925-1983) - Biochemist; Genetic sequencing; associate director of the National Biomedical Research Foundation; founder of the field of bioinformatics; (Wikipedia - Margaret Oakley Dayhoff)
  • Nancy Dickey, MD (1950- ) - 1st female president of the American Medical Association (AMA)1997-1998.
  • Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999) - Biochemist, Pharmacologist; contributed to development of medications to treat leukemia, malaria, organ transplant rejections, AIDS.
  • Waffa El-Sadr (1950-current) -Professor, Research. Director; research programs relating to HIV/AIDS & infectious disease; (Wikipedia - Wafaa El-Sadr)
  • Audrey Evans, MD (1925- ) a pioneer in the study & treatment of childhood cancers.
  • Jane Seymour Fonda (1937) - American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, & fitness guru; created exercise/workout tapes.
  • Patricia Goldman-Rakic (1937-2003) - Neuroscientist, Neurobiologist; research contributions to diseases like Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s; (Neuropsychopharmacology - Patricia Goldman-Rakic, 1937-2003; NCBI - Patricia Goldman-Rakic, the quintessential multidisciplinary scientist)
  • Dr Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906) - Physician, Writer, Suffragist; avid writer, medical researcher, work won awards and helped to break down barriers in women’s education and medical findings; organized the Association of the Medical Education of Women in New York. (Later, it became the Women’s Medical Association of New York City.); wrote influential essay entitled: The question of rest for women during Menstruation”
  • Jessica M. Kahn, MD As the Director for Medicaid’s Data and Systems Group, Jessica oversaw approximately $5 billion in annual federal spending for state Medicaid IT and data projects. Through her leadership of the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, over 202,000 providers received $12 billion+ in incentive payments to adopt, implement, upgrade and meaningfully use federally-certified EHR systems.
  • Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004) - thanatologist and psychiatrist - a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief, also known as the "Kübler-Ross model". Although she did not found the hospice movement, its adherents credit her with encouraging it.
  • Dr. Susan Love (1948) is an surgeon, a prominent advocate of preventive breast cancer research, and author. She is regarded as one of the most respected women’s health specialists in the United States. Love is a clinical professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In 1998 she was appointed by former President Clinton to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board, where she served until 2004. She maintains a board position at the National Cancer Institute, and continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Surgery at UCLA. Love also serves as the medical director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, formerly titled The Santa Barbara Breast Cancer Institute. She lectures nationally and internationally on breast cancer, menopause, and women's health.' Dr. Love has a number of patents, including one for a microcatheter, that can be positioned in the breast ducts through their opening in the breast. A Phase 2 clinical trial, investigates its use to deliver fulvestrant as a treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ and invasive breast cancer.'Through her organization, Love has launched several studies, initiatives, and coalitions on the subject of breast cancer such as the Army of Women and The Health of Women.
  • Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) - Scientist, Cytogeneticist; 1983 Nobel Prize winner for discovery of genetic transposition
  • Judy Murphy, RN Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) at IBM Global Healthcare, where she is responsible for building relationships and expanding business across the healthcare industry.
  • Jean Nidetch (Slutsky) (1923-2015) - co-founder of the Weight Watchers organization.
  • Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) - Founder of modern nursing
  • Dr. Antonia Coello Novello (b. August 23, 1944) - is a Puerto Rican physician and public health administrator. She was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and served as 14th Surgeon General of the United States from 1990 to 1993. Novello is the first woman and first Hispanic to serve as Surgeon General. Novello also served as Commissioner of Health for the State of New York from 1999 to 2006.
  • Ann O'Brien As Senior Director of Clinical Informatics at Kaiser Permanente, Ann focused on collaborating with clinical and IT leaders on intelligent standardization and strategic optimization resulting in improvements in quality outcomes and clinician efficiency.
  • Dr. Georgia E. Lee Patton (1864-1900) - Born a slave and freed after the Civil War, she attended Central Tennessee College and Meharry Medical School in Nashville, graduating in 1893. She became the first African-American woman to be licensed as a physician and surgeon in the state of Tennessee. She practiced medicine in Memphis, and was an active missionary, traveling to Liberia where she helped establish a school.
  • Dr Ann Preston (1813-1872) - Physician, Activist, Educator; Dean of a medical school (Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania-1st in world to accept women exclusively); (Wikipedia - Ann Preston)
  • Merit Ptah was a famous woman doctor in Ancient Egypt around 2,700 BC.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) - She wasn’t a doctor, but Eleanor Roosevelt had a significant impact on health care in the U.S. and around the world — all while revolutionizing the role of First Wife from that of a social organizer and hostess, to an influential public figure and policy maker. Roosevelt was appointed as head of the UN Human Rights Commission in 1948, where she helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a “standard” to which all nations are encouraged to aspire. She believed that all people deserved access to health care, as a fundamental right.
  • Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) - Activist, Educator, Writer, Nurse; coined the term “birth control” & opened first birth control clinic in USA; created National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control
  • Helen Brooke Taussig (1898-1986) The First Female President of the American Heart Association
  • Lillian D Wald (1867-1940) - Nurse; coined term “public health nurse”; advocated nurses in public schools
  • Dr Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) - Surgeon, Confederacy POW, Abolitionist, Prohibitionist; only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor
  • Dr Ruth Wesheimer (1928-current) - Sex Therapist & media personality; revolutionized open discussion about sexuality, sex education & contraception
  • Dr. Jane Cooke Wright (1919-2013) - surgeon and cancer researcher
  • Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011) - Physicist; created & developed radioimmunoassay which measures the concentration of antigens in the body which made it possible to scan blood donations for infectious diseases, like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis; 1977 Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine