Women in Medicine

Women in Medicine Photo Credit: Science NetLinks


In this investigation, you will compare the careers of two women, a century apart, involved in medical research. You also will learn about xenotransplanation, the use of animal organs and tissues for transplant into human patients.


Read the story Elizabeth Blackwell: The First Woman Doctor, on Snapshots of Science and Medicine, a website from the National Institutes of Health for high-school students and teachers. This resource tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from a U.S. medical school in 1848. As you read the story, jot down two or three details about Blackwell’s life which seem significant to you. Also, think about the personal qualities and characteristics that helped Blackwell overcome the many obstacles she faced throughout her career. Do you feel women face similar obstacles today?

.Many things have changed since Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from medical school. Today, nearly half of the students in the country’s top medical schools are women. In this part of the lesson, you will explore the changes in society that have made this progress possible by taking a closer look at the work done by Suzanne Ildstad and contrasting her experiences to those of Elizabeth Blackwell.

Beginning by reading these articles:

As you are reading, consider the role of Suzanne Ildstad’s research on the history of xenotransplantation. (Ildstad studies how to make the immune system tolerate transplanted organs' tissues.)

Knowledge Check

Write a report called "From Elizabeth Blackwell to Suzanne Ildstad." In the report, answer and elaborate upon the discussion questions below. In answering these questions, cite supporting evidence for your conclusions and include these in your report.

  • How has the status of women in our society changed since Blackwell's time? Have these changes made it easier or more difficult for women to succeed in research and medicine?
  • Has the involvement of more women in medical research fields changed science and medicine?
  • Has the fact that Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from a U.S. medical school in any way overshadowed her medical accomplishments?
  • What effect, if any, does Dr. Ildstad’s gender have on her research?

You can find more supporting evidence for your conclusions on these websites:

  • 4000 Years of Women in Science is a site that contains biographies and pictures of over 125 women who have contributed to the history of science and technology.
  • Women in Science is a comprehensive website for grades 7-12 created for ThinkQuest International.
  • The Nobel Prize Internet Archive is a reference guide to past and present winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Literature, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Economics. Most of the winners’ names are hyperlinked to short biographies.

This esheet is a part of the Women in Medicine: Past and Future lesson.

Did you find this resource helpful?

Esheet Details