SUNY Downstate Celebrates National Women Physicians Day

By Office of Communications & Marketing | Feb 3, 2022

Today, February 3, we recognize women physicians nationwide on National Women Physicians Day to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Today also marks women physicians’ accomplishments while acknowledging the challenges and obstacles that affect their entrance to the field. Created four years ago on this day, according to National Today, we celebrate Dr. Blackwell as the first female medical doctor in the United States and the work of women physicians for whom she paved the way.

Dr. Blackwell was inspired to pursue medicine by a dying friend who said her ordeal would have been better if she had a female physician. Facing discrimination and obstacles in college, she was forced to sit separately at lectures and was excluded from labs. Regardless, she graduated first in her class and continued training at London and Paris hospitals. However, male doctors gave her midwifery or nursing responsibilities only.

In 1851, Dr. Blackwell returned to New York City, where discrimination against women physicians meant few patients and difficulty practicing in hospitals and clinics. In 1857, she opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her sister Dr. Emily Blackwell and colleague Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, providing positions for women physicians.

Though male doctors still make up the majority of physicians, women constitute the majority of students in U.S. medical schools. In 2019, 46,878 medical school students (50.5 percent) were women, and 45,855 (49.4 percent) were men, according to a reportfrom the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

In 2018 and 2019, women matriculants outnumbered men, making up most students in U.S. medical schools. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges' 2019 Fall Applicant, Matriculant, and Enrollment Data Tables, women accounted for 52.4 percent of medical school matriculants this academic year.

Downstate's College of Medicine student enrollment is approximately 48 percent female and 52 percent male.

Women in medicine continue to work toward equity with their male colleagues.

So, today, as we honor women physicians nationally, we applaud those who, like Elizabeth Blackwell, champion the cause and case for women physicians.

I extend a particular word of gratitude to SUNY Downstate's women physicians, whom each day remain committed to the oaths they have taken.


About SUNY Downstate Medical Center

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Health Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and a multifaceted biotechnology initiative including the Downstate Biotechnology Incubator and BioBAT for early-stage and more mature companies, respectively.

SUNY Downstate ranks twelfth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.