February 3 is National Women’s Physicians Day, established to celebrate Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who defied industry and societal norms to become the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US in 1849. After 29 rejections, Blackwell finally received an acceptance letter from the Geneva Medical College in western New York State – only to learn that her welcome was meant as a prank. Turns out college administrators had allowed students to decide whether to allow a woman admission and the young male voters thought it great fun to wait and watch a woman fail. The joke was on them. Blackwell graduated at the top of her class and ultimately co-founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, still operating and known today as the Beekman Downtown Hospital.
Still, it would take over a century for women to match men in medical school figures. Statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that female medical students finally tipped the scales, if ever so slightly, in 2019, outnumbering their male counterparts for the first time in 2019: 50.5 percent women. While the difference may neem negligible, consider that just over a decade earlier in 2007, just 28 percent of US doctors were women, growing to 36 percent last year.
Studies show the trend is a positive one for not only young women who aspire to a medical career, but also for their future patients. Research by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA showed that patients treated by female physicians had a four-percent lower relative risk of dying, and a five-percent lower risk of being re-hospitalized. The 30-day mortality rate for all patients reviewed in the study was 179,162, or 11.32 percent.
“Newer generations of physicians are adapting practices to work that work for them as humans,” explains Dr. Amelia Averyt, associate medical director for family practice at Legacy Community Health. She notes that women traditionally are viewed as the leaders of the household and their skills translate easily to the medical world.
Post-graduation and residency placement, female physicians are most concentrated in pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, child and adolescent psychiatry and neonatal-perinatal medicine.
If you’re a woman considering a medical career, let WOLFPACC help assure you a competitive edge. Call 904-209-3140 to find out how.