Women's History Month: Women in Medicine


Happy Women's History Month!

Women’s presence, achievements and influence in the medical sphere continues to rise. This is a testament to the many women who challenge themselves and society to break through glass ceilings and reconsider traditional thoughts on medicine, healthcare and gender.

While there are countless high achievers to reference, we’ve picked a couple of our favourites to commemorate women’s progress in medicine - from the beginning to the present.


THEN: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (9 June 1836 – 17 December 1917)

An English physician and suffragist, and the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. She was the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first female doctor of medicine in France, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and, as Mayor of Aldeburgh, the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.

NOW: Dame Parveen June Kumar CBE (2000), DBE (2017)

Professor of Medicine and Education at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, President of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, President of the Medical Women’s Federation, previously consultant gastroenterologist and physician, president of the BMA and of the Royal Society and Medicine, previous vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, founding non-executive director of NICE and co-founded and co-edited Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine (a.k.a. the Bible of Medicine). The list speaks for itself. An inspiration for what can be achieved by and for women in medicine.


There’s so much to celebrate, but still plenty to be done. The number of female doctors in the GMC register increases year-on-year – but we’re still catching up, See the statistics from https://www.gmcuk.org/doctors/register/search_stats.asp below:

womens day blog graph.jpg


Women face challenges in the workplace routinely. How many female doctors are reflexly referred to as ‘nurse’, have patients direct conversation to their male colleagues despite the fact that they have an inferior grade, or – as recent research shows – do not have their title acknowledged in public forums.

Two Associate Professors of Medicine in the US were prompted to perform the observational study after one of them, Dr Files, had a rattling experience. She was on stage with three male colleagues who, at the end of a forum, were all thanked as Dr X/Y/Z, and she was thanked by her first name only. The moderator was male. The subsequent research piece showed that male moderators used professional titles for female doctors only 49% of the time on first reference, but introduced male doctors by their titles 72% of the time:  https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2016.6044?journalCode=jwh


So ladies, let’s enjoy the opportunity this March, during Women's History Month, and this year – 100 years since women were given the vote in the UK– to celebrate, advocate, and support each other.

Jason Peart