Do you know these 10 influential women in medicine?

From pioneers to innovators to inventors, do you know these 10 influential women in medicine? Take our Women’s History Month quiz! Hint: many are from Virginia or have Virginia connections.

1. This Virginia woman is a physician-scientist and pathologist known for her advocacy of women’s health issues, particularly for ensuring federally funded medical studies include female patients. Born in Halifax, she attended segregated schools in Lynchburg. She earned her medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1967, and was the only woman and only African-American in her class. In 1991 she became the first director of the new Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and first permanent NIH associate director of research on Women’s Health. 

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Vivian W. Pinn, MD – About

2. In 1864 this former nurse became the first African-American woman to be granted an MD degree in the United States. She was the only Black graduate of the New England Female Medical College in Boston, before it merged with Boston University School of Medicine in 1873. She also wrote one of the first medical publications by an African-American: “Book of Medical Discourses.” Virginia connection: After the Civil War, she moved to Richmond to care for freed slaves before returning to her home in Boston.

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Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD – About

3. In 1953 this woman created the first tool to scientifically assess a neonate’s health risks and need for potentially life-saving observation. She was only the second woman in the United States to become Board certified in anesthesiology by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which she achieved in 1939, and 10 years later was named the first woman full professor when Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons launched an academic department of anesthesia research. She later became an influential advocate for the March of Dimes.

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Virginia Apgar, MD (Apgar score) – About

4. In 1893 this Virginia woman was the first African-American woman to receive a certificate from the Virginia State Medical Examining Board. She graduated from Richmond Colored Normal School and Howard University Medical College. During the 1890s she was one of only three female physicians and about a half-dozen African-American physicians in Richmond. She and her physician husband helped create a medical society for African-American doctors in 1902, and the following year she helped open a hospital for Black patients and training school for nurses, later named in her honor — which years after became Richmond Community Hospital.

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Sarah Garland Boyd Jones, MD – About

5. In 1889 this woman became the first Native American woman to be granted an MD degree in the United States. She was the youngest daughter of the last recognized chief of the Omaha. She graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania at the top of her class. She returned to the Omaha reservation in Nebraska where she practiced medicine and became known as a devoted public health advocate and civil rights activist. Virginia connection: She attended college at Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, and was salutatorian in 1886.

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Susan LaFlesche Picotte, MD – About

6. This woman successfully mapped the brain’s prefrontal and frontal cortices — research which has allowed for better understanding of diseases such as schizophrenia, dementia, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Trained as a psychologist, she became one of the most innovative and sophisticated neuroscientists in the modern era of brain exploration. Over her career she published more than 200 papers and received numerous honors, including admission to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990.

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Patricia Goldman-Rakic, MD – About

7. In 1849 this woman became the first to be granted an MD degree in the United States. She was rejected by more than 10 medical schools, and refused the suggestion to disguise herself as a man to gain admission. She attended and got her degree from the Geneva Medical College in western New York. In 1857 she was a founder of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, which supported medical education for women who were often rejected from internships elsewhere at the time.

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Elizabeth Blackwell, MD – About

8. This Virginia woman pioneered the first electric device for feeding amputees, part of which was patented in 1948. As a child she attended Diggs Chapel in Hickory, a one-room schoolhouse built after the Civil War to educate former slaves, their children, and Native Americans. There she learned to become ambidextrous after being reprimanded for writing with her left hand. She also taught herself to write with her teeth and feet, skills useful for her career as a nurse and physical therapist working with amputee veterans. She also invented a neck frame that holds a bowl or cup close a patient’s face, and a disposable emesis basin.

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Bessie Blount Griffin – About

9. In 1990 this woman became the first woman and the first Hispanic to become Surgeon General of the United States. Her appointment followed nearly two decades of public service at the National Institutes of Health where she drafted national legislation on organ transplantation. While at the University of Michigan, where she completed her medical training in nephrology, she was the first woman to be named Intern of the Year. As Surgeon General she is known for her campaign against the tobacco industry advertising aimed at children, alerting the nation to the rise of AIDS among women and adolescents, and expediting FDA approval of vaccines for military personnel during the Gulf War — for which she was awarded the Legion of Merit military honor.

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Antonia Novello, MD – About

10. This Virginia woman was a reproductive endocrinologist who pioneered in vitro fertilization in the United States, among other fertility-related advances. In 1949 she made the first description of Luteal Phase Dysfunction and is credited among the first to use progesterone to treat women with a history of miscarriages, allowing many women to conceive and deliver healthy babies. In 1978 she and her physician husband moved to Norfolk to create an IVF program at Eastern Virginia Medical School. On December 28, 1981, their procedure gave birth to the first American test tube baby, and 15th in the world.

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Georgeanna Seegar Jones, MD – About

Bonus: From #10 above, do you know the name of the first American test tube baby, who was delivered at Norfolk General Hospital? She was invited to the 2024 State of the Union Address by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.

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Elizabeth Jordan Carr