Women’s History Month: Women in medicine and how they made history at Wayne – School of Medicine News


March is Women’s History Month, a declared annual celebration that highlights women’s contributions to history and contemporary society. The Wayne State University School of Medicine is home to countless outstanding women in medicine and science – physicians, teachers, researchers, mentors and more. It is also the site of several programs, offices and organizations developed to support and improve women’s health, leadership and education. While by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few examples from the School of Medicine’s 153-year history that deserve recognition this month, and always.

Anna Spencer Rankin, MD

In 1881, 13 years after the School of Medicine opened, Anna Spencer Rankin, MD, graduated from the Michigan College of Medicine, the precursor to the School of Medicine. She was the first woman to do so. She was elected vice president of the Michigan College of Medicine Alumni Association in 1883.

Five years later, 17 Detroit women worked with Charles Devendorf, MD, a faculty member and physician at Harper’s Hospital and later chief medical officer of Michigan Children’s Hospital, to form the Children’s Free Hospital Association. , which provided beds and clothing for sick children. race, religion or ability to pay.

In 1917, four years after the school was reorganized into the Detroit College of Medicine and Surgery, women were once again officially admitted to the medical degree program—three years before women won the right to vote.

In 1943, Marjorie Peebles, MD became the first African American woman to graduate from the College of Medicine. She also became the first female African-American resident and chief resident at Detroit Receiving Hospital and a faculty member at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Marion Barnhart, Ph.D., a physiology teacher and hematology researcher, in 1951 became the first female full-time faculty member of what was then the College of Medicine. In 1967, she was promoted to professor, making her the first woman at Wayne State University to achieve that rank.

Marion Barnhart, Ph.D.

Dr. Barnhart specialized in research on blood platelets and blood clotting and made important contributions to the treatment of sickle cell anemia. In the late 1960s, she pioneered the use of scanning electron microscopy to study the pathophysiology of many diseases. She received the university’s first Graduate Faculty Award in 1974. At the time of her death in 1985 at age 64 after a traffic accident in Flint, according to The New York Times, Dr. Barnhart was director of the Fellowship Program in Transfusion Medicine, Director of the Bargman Laboratory for Cellular and Molecular Research, Chairman of the National Institutes of Health Blood Diseases and Resources/Hemostasis Advisory Committee, and founding member of the Academy of Wayne State Scholars University.

In 1994, Bonnie Sloane, Ph.D., became the first female chair of a department in the School of Medicine. She served as Chair of the Department of Pharmacology until 2015. Dr. Sloane, Distinguished Professor, also directed the Proteases and Cancer Program at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.

In addition to conducting her own research on proteolysis, Dr. Sloane has mentored numerous researchers, including international scientists. In 2017, the Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, and Karmanos Cancer Institute presented their first international symposium, “Proteases in Cancer Biology,” in honor of Dr. Sloane. Her work in the field of proteolysis research earned Dr. Sloane a Lifetime Membership Award for Outstanding Contributions from the International Proteolysis Society in 2010. She was president of the organization from 1999 to 2001 and a member of its board from 2003 to 2007.

In 2002, the National Institutes of Health approved a contract to house the Perinatology Research Branch at the School of Medicine. The branch, which focuses on maternal-fetal medicine and preterm birth, is the only such NIH branch located outside of Bethesda, Maryland. Eight years later, professor of obstetrics and gynecology Sonia Hassan, MD, working at PRB, found that daily use of progesterone by pregnant women whose cervix is ​​shortened by ultrasound reduces the rate of preterm delivery up to 45%.

The School of Medicine hired its first dean in 2009. Valérie Parisi, MD, MPH, MBA, is an obstetrician/gynecologist and a national leader in medical education and physician assessment and certification. She helped launch and served as co-principal investigator for a federal grant to establish a regional health education center program in Michigan. She served as Dean until 2014.

A year earlier, the organization Women in Medicine and Science, or WIMS, was founded. The group strives to advance women at all career levels by addressing gender equity, recruitment and retention, rewards and recognition, work-life balance and career advancement. WIMS regularly organizes events open to all interested faculty, staff and students in medicine and academic sciences.

Anna Ledgerwood, MD

In 2014, Anna Ledgerwood, MD, FACS, professor of surgery, was elected the first female president of the American Surgical Association. She joined the faculty in 1972 and served as director of trauma for the Detroit Receiving Hospital and trauma site visitor to verify that hospitals are trauma centers for the American College of Surgeons. She has been a frequent guest lecturer at other medical schools and has a particular interest in the advancement of women in the field of surgery.

WSU launched the Make Your Date program the same year to reduce the premature birth rate in Detroit. The comprehensive outreach effort has provided services to between 1,000 and 1,500 pregnant women in Detroit each year. The program provides education, individual counseling, access to insurance, the latest tests and treatments, and referrals to many services. A 2019 study showed that women served by Make Your Date were 37% less likely to give birth at less than 32 weeks and 28% less likely to give birth at less than 34 weeks than women giving birth at the same hospital who did not. had not participated in the program.

In December 2019, the university launched the Office of Women’s Health, a comprehensive approach that Dr. Hassan, now Associate Vice President of Women’s Health, founded to improve women’s health in general, through a Deep dive into medical research affecting more than half of Michigan’s and nation’s population, a segment often unintentionally overlooked in research. The office works to improve women’s health to maximize opportunities for families to prosper and achieve economic security. It also empowers women to lead their healthiest lives at all stages of life by implementing five fundamental pillars: education awareness, research and development, science implementation, working to place more women in scientific research and assistance in policy development.

The School of Medicine opened a Maternal Support Room within Scott Hall, coinciding with National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Room 2103, the first of its kind on the medical campus, was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 10, 2020. Based on information from a student-led study, including data from mothers who workers and students and a survey of available breastfeeding spaces at WSU, the study was released in conjunction with the opening of the new room. Understanding the challenges mothers face when striving to breastfeed for the health of their infants while working or completing school, students and faculty associated with the study acted on their findings. and presented the need for additional spaces for nursing and breastfeeding.


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