changing the Face of Medicine” captures historical story of women in medicine

Women doctors are the focus of  a new  traveling exhibition opening at the University of Colorado Denver’s Health Sciences Library on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo.  “Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians” tells the extraordinary story of how American women have struggled over the past two centuries to gain access to medical education so they could work in the medical specialty they chose. The exhibit opens Friday, April 10, and runs through June 9, 2009.

Since the mid-1800s, when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first American woman to earn a medical degree, women have made enormous strides in every area of medicine and have achieved success in work once considered “unsuitable” for women. Female physicians are now found in every branch of medicine. They are researchers on the cutting edge of new medical discoveries, educators, surgeons, family practitioners, specialists, and government officials. “Changing the Face of Medicine” features the life stories of a rich diversity of female physicians from around the nation and highlights the broad range of medical specialties women are involved in today.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) in Bethesda, Md., and the American Library Association in Chicago organized the exhibition with support from the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the American Medical Women’s Association. The traveling exhibition is based on a larger exhibition that was displayed at the NLM from 2003–2005.

“Women have brought fresh perspectives to the medical profession,” said Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD, director of the National Library of Medicine. “They have turned the spotlight on issues that had previously received little attention, such as the social and economic costs of illnesses and the low numbers of women and minorities entering medical school and practice.”

Female physicians in the 21st century are benefiting from the career paths carved out since the mid-19th century by a long line of American women. Some early physicians featured in the exhibition are Matilda Evans, the first African American physician to be licensed in South Carolina, and Colorado native, Florence Sabin, one of the earliest female physicians to work as a research scientist and a pioneer in Colorado’s public health program. Among the many other doctors whose stories appear in the exhibition are Antonia Novello, the first woman to be Surgeon General of the United States, and Catherine DeAngelis, the first woman to be appointed editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Two interactive kiosks traveling with the exhibition offer access to the NLM’s “Local Legends” Web site ( ), which features outstanding female physicians from every state, and an additional web site created for the larger exhibition at the NLM ( ). The exhibition Web site offers access to educational and professional resources for people considering medicine as a career, as well as lesson plans for classroom activities. A section of the site called “Share Your Story”, allows the public to add the names and biographies of female physicians they know.

“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Jerry Perry,  director of the Health Sciences Library.  “Although ‘Changing the Face of Medicine’  focuses on women in medicine, its lessons about persistence, dedication, and courage in one’s life choices speak to everyone—men and women and young adults—and to people in all lines of work.”

The Health Sciences library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition. Please contact Mary Mauck at 303.724.2129 or visit the library’s web site at for more information and a full schedule of events.

The CU Denver Health Sciences Library links people, reliable health sciences knowledge, and technology in support of effective learning, quality health care, vital research, and community service.  The staff of the library strives for the highest quality services as they enhance access to the knowledge base of the health sciences, instruct users in information retrieval and management techniques, and acquire and organize a specialized collection of electronic, print and other resources in a cost-effective manner.

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