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'Changing the Face of Medicine'
NLM Exhibit Honors Outstanding Women Physicians

They overcame prejudice and discrimination to create and broaden opportunities within the profession. Persistence, ingenuity and ability enabled them to advance in all areas of science and medicine. They are among the very best of America's women physicians and now they are being saluted in "Changing the Face of Medicine," an interactive exhibition that opened Oct. 14 in the first floor of Bldg. 38, the National Library of Medicine.

Dr. Tenley E. Albright, a Harvard-trained surgeon and the first American woman to earn an Olympic gold medal in figure skating, donned a white jacket and scalpel, not to conduct a medical procedure but to cut the ribbon and officially open the exhibition. Albright chaired the ad hoc advisory group that consulted with NLM on exhibition development. She was joined at the ceremony by several faces familiar to NIH, all featured in the exhibition: Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, former acting NIH director and the first woman to head an NIH institute; Dr. Vivian Pinn, NIH associate director for research on women's health; and Dr. Antonia Novello, former U.S. Surgeon General and current commissioner for health for the State of New York. A program later in the day featured remarks by NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and the first woman physician to serve in Congress, Dr. Donna M. Christian-Christensen, delegate from the Virgin Islands. There was also a performance by a string quartet, using instruments handcrafted by pediatrics pioneer Dr. Virginia Apgar.

Among those on hand for the ribbon-cutting that opened the "Changing the Face of Medicine" exhibit at NLM are (from l) Dr. Elizabeth Fee, Dr. Vivian Pinn, Dr. Tenley Albright (in white lab coat; she used a scalpel to cut the ribbon), Dr. Donald Lindberg and Dr. Antonia Novello.

"Changing the Face of Medicine" features stories from a rich diversity of women physicians and a broad range of medicine that they practice in communities across the United States. Through personal artifacts, text panels and interactive displays, visitors can learn about:

  • The first woman of color to lead a U.S. medical school (Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee);
  • The first woman to direct NIH (Dr. Bernadine Healy);
  • The chief of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente, who volunteers her time removing tattoos from former gang members (Dr. Nancy Jasso);
  • The first woman appointed editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (Dr. Catherine DeAngelis);
  • An Army colonel who became the first woman flight surgeon to enter into combat with the 2-229th attack helicopter battalion during the Gulf War (Dr. Rhonda Cornum);
  • The first and only woman to be a team orthopedic surgeon in the National Football League (Dr. Leigh Ann Curl);
  • A pediatrician and surgeon who became the health correspondent for ABC television's Good Morning America, reporting from around the world on a wide range of medical topics (Dr. Nancy L. Snyderman);
  • A woman physician who serves as chief medical examiner of Virginia, the state's highest position in forensic science (Dr. Marcella Farinelli Fierro).

"Women waged a lengthy battle to gain access to medical education and hospital training," noted Dr. Elizabeth Fee, director of NLM's History of Medicine Division. "Since winning those struggles, women from diverse backgrounds have carved out successful careers in areas as diverse as sports medicine, space medicine and surgery."

The exhibition has a companion web site at The site will let people around the world discover the history of America's women physicians, and learn more about educational and professional resources for those considering medicine as a career. There is a section of the site called "Share Your Story," where people can add stories about outstanding woman physicians they know, whether they are family members, mentors or their own doctors.

"Women have brought fresh perspectives to the medical profession," said Dr. Donald Lindberg, NLM director. "They have turned the spotlight on issues that had previously received little attention such as the social and economic costs of illness and the low numbers of women and minorities entering medical school and practice.

"This exhibition will have the broadest possible appeal," he continued. "Although it focuses on the personal and professional triumphs of women in medicine, its lessons in persistence, dedication and excellence will speak to people in all professions — men, women and young people alike."

"Changing the Face of Medicine" was curated by Dr. Ellen S. More and Manon Parry, with Kevin Schlesier serving as exhibition coordinator. The exhibition is open to the public and admission is free. Visiting hours are: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday (and 5-9 p.m., Thursdays between Labor Day and Memorial Day) and 8:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. Saturday. NLM is closed Sundays and federal holidays.

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