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Changing Face of Medicine: Biographies
These biographies are part of the Changing Face
Mae Harrington Cardwell
Born in Pennsylvania in 1853, Mae Harrington began working at 14 as a
teacher. But a fierce ambition combined with a strong and resourceful
intellect brought her to the West Coast in 1877 where she vowed to become
a physician. After graduating from two medical schools, she began her long
and illustrious career in Portland, Oregon as one of the region's first
In the 1890's, she became the first woman on a hospital staff in Oregon,
serving as physician to the children's ward of Portland Hospital.She was
an early and active member of medical societies in Oregon at a time when
few women were welcomed into these organizations.
She joined the Oregon State Medical Society in 1885, served as treasurer
from 1893-1903, and later as vice president. From the mid-1890's she
served as a contributing editor for the Medical Sentinel.
She presented papers and discussed her own cases in the Medical Sentinel,
soon becoming a leader in Portland's medical community. She was the first
woman to join the Portland City Medical Society in 1892. In 1900 she was a
founding member and president of the Medical Club of Portland, a medical
society for women physicians.
An outspoken advocate for women in medicine, Dr. Cardwell was not
intimated by the then male-dominated profession. At the annual meeting of
the Oregon State Medical Society in 1903, when a male physician presented
a paper on "Higher Education as a Cause of Physical Decay of Women,"
Cardwell was reported to have responded with "disapproval of this most
noted paper… with a challenge of every important point."
In 1903, she was appointed to the city Health Board, the first woman
physician to occupy this position. She developed Portland's food
inspection policies for the city's markets, and helped to improve
municipal sanitation. She headed the Portland Woman's Club Home
Department, which focused on improving public health, and in establishing
the Working Girl's Home and Industrial School. She was also a member first
Oregon Child Welfare Commission, physician to the Portland Juvenile Court,
and women's medical advisor at Reed College.
Dr. Cardwell's writings and reports for the medical societies chronicle
the role of women in medicine in the early 20th century in Portland. She
was active in suffrage campaigns. During WWI, Cardwell was one of four
Portland women physicians to challenge the U. S. Army's policy of refusing
officer status for medical women.
At her death in 1929, the Portland Oregonian eulogized her as "an
outstanding member of her profession and a pioneer in women's activities
in the world of medicine."
Photograph courtesy of Oregon Historical Society
Esther Pohl Lovejoy
In her lifetime, Dr. Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy transformed the Portland
Board of Health in Oregon by regulating the milk supply, providing funds
for school nurses, and earning Portland a national reputation for its high
standards of sanitation. She also helped to establish the Medical Women's
International Association and the American Women's Hospitals which, under
her leadership, grew from an emergency committee for war relief into an
international service organization operating in thirty countries.
Esther Clayson was born in 1869, in a logging camp near Seabeck,
Washington Territory, and grew up in Portland, Oregon. Her father was an
English seaman who had jumped ship in 1864 and brought his family to join
him three years later. His attempts to support his family as a lumber
merchant, hotel manager, newspaper editor, and farmer were not entirely
successful. After such unsteady beginnings, young Esther Clayson decided
that she had no desire to be the helpmate of an Oregon farmer or pioneer
hotel keeper. For a while, she could not decide between a career in
theater or medicine. While theater seemed unreal to her, medicine was
"drama in its highest form."
The woman doctor who delivered Esther Clayson's youngest sister became an
inspiration for her to enter the University of Oregon's Medical School in
1894. Taking a year off to earn money, she finished in four years and
graduated with a medal for her strong academic achievement.
Shortly after graduation Dr. Esther Clayson married her classmate, Emil
Pohl, and the two set up a private practice in Portland, where she worked
as an obstetrician and her husband as surgeon. Dr. Esther Pohl spent most
of 1896 at the West-Side Postgraduate School in Chicago but two years
later, she and her husband had relocated to Skagway, Alaska, where her
brothers were suppliers to gold prospectors. The Pohls spent almost two
years in Alaska, visiting patients by dog sled and helping establish the
Union Hospital. After her brother Frederick's mysterious death in 1899,
she moved back to Portland, visiting her husband, who remained in Alaska,
only during the summer. The couple had a son in 1901 and left him in the
care of Esther's mother, allowing Esther to pursue her interests in
women's suffrage, public health, and obstetrics and gynecology. After
spending most of 1904 attending an obstetrics clinic in Vienna, Austria,
Dr. Pohl returned and became the first woman to direct the Portland Board
of Health. Tragically, her own son died in 1908 from septic peritonitis
attributed to contaminated milk.
Dr. Esther Pohl set up a private practice in 1908 and went to Berlin for
further training in 1909. On her return in 1911, she learned that her
husband had died in Alaska during an encephalitis epidemic. Despite this
second tragedy, she continued her medical practice and her political work
during the next few years. She married Portland businessman George Lovejoy
in 1913, a marriage that lasted only seven years. From 1911 to 1920,
Esther Pohl Lovejoy continued her support of women's suffrage, the League
of Nations, and Prohibition, even running for a seat in Congress. She was
an outspoken campaigner, publicizing the plight of poor farmers in the
Northwest and calling local bankers "bandits" who charged ruinous interest
rates in order to profit from the farmers' misfortunes.
With the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914, Dr. Lovejoy moved east
to work with the American Medical Women's Association, and in the fall of
1918 she traveled to France under its auspices. During the day she worked
in a Red Cross Hospital, and in the evenings she visited charity
hospitals, hoping to create a string of such institutions throughout
Europe. After she returned to the United States, she spent the next year
and a half lecturing about her experiences in France and described the
trip in her first book, The House of the Good Neighbor, published in 1919.
Her lectures helped fund the establishment of the American Women's
Hospitals, an outgrowth of the American Medical Women's Association, to
serve displaced and injured war victims. She led the organization for
forty-seven years, from 1918 to 1965, and in 1919 helped found the Medical
Women's International Association.
During the years that she ran American Women's Hospitals, the group
established their first hospital near Paris in 1918, created outpatient
clinics and orphanages, and provided public health services. After World
War I the organization focused on other crises and with the outbreak of
World War II in 1939, the American Women's Hospitals provided medical care
in Britain, Greece, and the Far East, expanding into thirty countries.
Later in life, Lovejoy continued to encourage women to enter the field of
medicine. She wrote two books to record women physicians' achievements and
endowed medical scholarships at her alma mater, stipulating that one third
of them should go to women.
Esther Pohl Lovejoy
Marie Diana Equi was born in 1872 to an Irish mother and an Italian father
in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Both parents had immigrated to the United
States in search of better opportunities. Her mother fled to escape the
potato famine and political oppression. Her father left Italy to join an
older brother who had an established trade as a stone mason in New
Bedford. Marie completed grade school and middle school butin 1887, after
one year of high school, she dropped out to work in textile mills. By
1890, she lived for a time with her father's relatives in Northern Italy,
later returning to the States.When she returned, Equi traveled west to
join her friend Bessie Holcomb in The Dalles, Oregon. Holcomb had arrived
a few months earlier and had claimed homestead rights.For five years,
while Holcomb worked as a teacher and Equi studied to enter medical
school, they both worked the121.8 acrehomestead.
Before matriculating at the University of Oregon Medical School (1901),
Equi attended The College of Physicians and Surgeons (1899) and the
University of California Medical School(1900) in San Francisco. After
receivingan M.D. in 1903, she set up practice in Portland serving
primarily working class people. She was especially sensitive to women and
a reputation as an expert diagnostician and tireless advocate for
reproductive choice. She was a leading figure in public health campaigns
and was one of a contingent of Portland doctors and nurses who traveled to
San Francisco in response to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
In recognition of her efforts, she received a commendation from the U.S.
When birth control advocate Margaret Sanger described her as "a rebellious
soul"and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn proclaimed her "the stormy petrel of the
Northwest,"they were modest descriptions. She was a radical political
activist who lived in relatively open lesbian relationships.An outspoken
advocate for justice with a fiery temperament, she once publicly
threatened a man with a bullwhip because he owed her partner money. When
police arrested a fellow labor activist for speaking in public, she
berated the authorities so openly and severely that she managed to secure
the release of her colleague. As a champion of justice, Dr. Equi fought
for, and was imprisoned to secure,rights that are considered fundamental
today.When Margaret Sanger visited Portland in 1916, Sanger and Equi were
arrested for defending three men caught distributing Sanger's birth
control pamphlets. The incident began a long friendship between them, and
Dr. Equi revised Sanger's pamphlet to make it more medically accurate.
Dr. Equi did not distinguish between what many saw as distinct campaigns
for birth control, women's suffrage, and an overall improvement in women's
living standards and working conditions. Instead, she saw all as part of
the larger class struggle, the end of which would be
the freedom, dignity, and health of working women and their families.
Adapted from text by Michael Helquist, an historian who is writing a
biography of Dr. Marie Equi.
Mary Jane Stamm
Mary Jane Stamm was born in Washington State in 1915. She received her
undergraduate degree in zoology at Mills College in Oakland, Calif.,
before enrolling at the University of Oregon Medical School. Dr. Stamm was
one of only two female graduates in the University of Oregon Medical
School class of 1943 and later became the first female Ob/Gyn in her
adopted hometown of Castro Valley, Calif.
After earning her medical degree, she studied surgical techniques in
Chicago before returning
to the Bay Area as an assistant clinical professor of
obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. In
addition to conducting research into fertility and infertility, she
practiced at several Bay Area hospitals before opening her Castro Valley
office in 1950. In
1954, she became the only woman Ob/Gyn on the medical staff of the newly
Dr. Stamm delivered thousands of babies during her long career, and her
devotion to young people followed many of them far beyond the delivery
room. Over the years and without fanfare, she provided more than a
half-million dollars in college scholarships to students at Castro Valley
High School - a tradition that will live on at the school through her
gift of $750,000.
Dr. Stamm died February 6, 2007 at age 91, leaving Oregon Health & Science
$6 million for medical student scholarships.
Adapted from OHSU Web site
accessed May 2008
Mary Jane Stamm
Frances Jean Judy Storrs, M.D., professor emerita of dermatology at Oregon
Health & Science University, has established an amazing legacy within the
medical community, the field of dermatology and the city of Portland. Dr.
Storrs has received over 30 awards, including the American Academy of
Dermatology's Master Dermatologist Award, the OHSU Humanism in Medicine
Award, the City Club of Portland's Citizen of the Year, and the American
Contact Dermatitis Society's Alexander Fisher Lectureship Award, to name
just a few. In recognition of her lifetime commitment to mentoring women
in dermatology,Dr. Storrs received the Women's Dermatologic Society's most
prestigious honor, the Rose Hirschler Award. Further, in 2008, shewas
awarded the Gold Medal, the AAD's highest honor.
In a 2007 oral history interview, Dr. Storrs described some of the hurdles
she overcame to become a physician, including a negative mentor, or
"de-mentor," at college:
"then, to top it all off, to top it all off, I had an acutely
discriminatory piece of behavior happen to me at that time.[...] And the
head of the department, the biology department, was a very short man, Dr.
Thurlow B. Thomas. And he absolutely hated women. And there were two
women in the sciences who were going to go into medicine. And he was
short; I'm tall. He came up to me when I announced I was going to go into
medicine. He was the pre-med advisor, so he had to write the letters and
get everybody ready to go to medical school. And he came up to me, even
though I'd had all A's in all of his classes, and he looked up at me and
he said, "Frances Judy-" my maiden name was Judy - "Frances Judy, I
personally am going to see to it that you do not get into medical school."
So I then went to another man whom I had befriended and whom I still have
contact with named Henry Van Dyke, who taught comparative anatomy. …And
Dr. Van Dyke said, "Don't worry, Frances. Every time you decide where you
want to apply to medical school, I will send a contradictory letter." So
Dr. Thomas wrote his letter, and then my friend, Dr. Van Dyke, wrote his
letter. And I got into every medical school I applied to. And every time I
would get in, I would take the letter of acceptance and run it across
what's called the bald spot, where the men and the women were separated
from one another, and throw it on his desk. Say, "Have a look at that, Dr.
Thomas!" And then pick it up and walk out."
Following in the footsteps of her esteemed mentor, Walter C. Lobitz Jr.,
M.D.,Dr. Storrs has also distinguished herself through unwavering
commitment to and passion for the education of young people. But Dr.
Storrs' legacy has been built on more than just her commitment to
individuals; her mentorship is sought because of how she lives her life.
Her enduring commitment to ethical behavior, her industrious challenge of
what is known, and her unmatched enthusiasm for every aspect of life, make
people around her want to be better people, better doctors, and generally,
to enjoy life in a deeper way.
Blauvelt, Molly. OHSU Department of
Joanna Cain, M.D.,earned her medical degree at Creighton University and
completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of
Washington. Dr. Cain has been serving the medical community and patients
for more than 30 years. She has an unwavering determination to change
women's health care. As director of the OHSU Center for Women's Health,
she's doing exactly that.
She is past chair of the only international ethics committee for women's
health, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics(FIGO)
Committee for Ethics in Women's Health, and has been the President of the
Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) as well as
the President of the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics &
A world-renowned scientist, Cain has brought new clinical trials to the
center, giving women in Oregon access to the latest advances in medicine.
She also has recruited a new generation of top scientists, who are
investigating everything from the genetic patterns of ovarian cancer to
how formation of the heart during pregnancy affects lifelong health. In
many cases, this research is being done nowhere else in the world. "Our
philosophy is simple," Cain says. "The women of Oregon should not have to
leave the state to receive the very best care."
Though her research in ovarian cancer has gained worldwide attention, Cain
focuses much of her attention on the feelings and experiences of patients.
"By putting the patient in control, we also are changing the way women's
care is delivered," she says.
Early in her career, Cain became the first woman fellow accepted in
gynecologic oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Today she
serves as the first woman chair and the first American chair of a global
task force that is influencing care for women worldwide. Typically, she
speaks quietly of her accomplishments. But she speaks strongly of their
benefits for Oregon.
"You may never need this advanced care yourself," she says. "But one day
you might hear from a friend who does. You might get a call from a sister
or daughter or mother. You'll want to offer hope. You'll want to know that
the very best care is available right here in Oregon."
Dr. Cain speaks and publishes regionally and internationally in multiple
areas of women's health and women's health education, and has published
over 100 scholarly articles.
Oregon Health & Science University Foundation.
"Pursuing difficult questions - in science and in policy - takes one to
interesting places", says Christine Cassel, M.D., a renowned expert in
geriatric medicine and medical ethics. She works to improve quality of
life for elderly patients, challenging out-of-date ideas about what can be
expected in the aging process.
"A geriatrician", she explains "is like a pediatrician but at the other
end of life.As it is true with children, older people have medical needs
that are different from those of midlife adults… Our job is to improve the
quality of life for the elderly and to keep them functional and
independent for as long as possible. And when the end of life comes, our
job is to keep them as dignified and comfortable as possible." Geriatrics
has only been a formal specialty in American medicine since the 1980s, and
although the United States is facing a demographic "bubble" of the aging
population, geriatrics is still not one of the most popular specialties.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1945, Christine Karen Cassel first
realized that care of the elderly could be a physician's primary concern
while she was a medical student at the University of Massachusetts. Though
most students tended to focus on unique cases from a clinical perspective,
she noticed that 90 percent of patients in the wards were elderly patients
with problems common to them. Medical specialties tended to ignore
syndromes of aging such as mental confusion, urinary incontinence,
instability and gait disorders, failure to thrive, and depressions. A
geriatrician, however, seeks ways to improve those conditions and
coordinate care. So if an older person is seeing several specialists who
don't often talk to one another, the geriatrician would be the one to keep
an eye on the total picture. "A bigger part of the work I do is to try to
create a medical profession that is knowledgeable about the issues of
older patients… Our system is not designed to take good care of people
with chronic illnesses, many of whom happen to be old… It's taught me a
lot about the plain old simple value of being involved with people.
Regardless of one's age or disabilities, human interaction is one of the
things that seems to really make a difference in the quality of life."
Dr. Cassel received her medical degree from the University of
Massachusetts Medical School in 1976, and completed her residency in
internal medicine at Children's Hospital and the University of California
at San Francisco from 1976-1978, with subsequent fellowships in bioethics
and geriatrics at San Francisco in 1979 and Veterans Administration
Medical Center, Portland, Oregon, from 1979-1981.
From 1985 to 1995 at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of
Medicine, Dr. Cassel was chief of the Section of General Internal
Medicine, professor of geriatrics and medicine, director of the Robert
Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, and director of the Center for
Health Policy Research. She was then chair of the Department of Geriatrics
and Adult Development and professor of geriatrics and medicine at Mount
Sinai School of Medicine in New York City from 1995 to 2002.
Dr. Cassel was Dean of the School of Medicine (2002-2003) and Vice
President for Medical Affairs at Oregon Health& Science University in
Portland, Oregon. She was the 13th dean of the school and the first woman
to hold the position. Among her many professional associations, Dr. Cassel
is currently chair of the board of trustees for the American Board of
Internal Medicine; chair of the board of the Greenwall Foundation, which
supports work in bioethics; president of the American Federation for Aging
Research;member of the Advisory Committee to the directorat the National
Institutes of Health; and co-chair for the Committee on Assuring the
Health of the Public in the 21st Century at the Institute of Medicine
(IOM). Dr. Cassel served on previous IOM committees responsible for
influential reports on quality of care and medical errors, and chaired a
recent report on end-of-life care. She also served on the President's
Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care
Industry from 1997 to 1998.
An active scholar and lecturer, Dr. Cassel publishes extensively, writing
articlesfor professional journals, books, editorials and special reports.
She is currently concerned with quality improvement in health care,
health-professional education, biomedical ethics, geriatric medicine,
palliative care, healthcare policy, and healthy aging. She was nationally
prominent as chief editor of a seminal textbook, Geriatric Medicine,
issued in its fourth edition in 2003. Dr. Cassel also edited A Practical
Guide to Aging in 1997. Cassel is on the editorial boards of several
medical journals, including Archives of Internal Medicine, American
Journal of Medicine, and Geriatrics.
National Library of Medicine - Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating
America's Women Physicians
Accessed May 2008
July 24, 2009
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