Women have been pioneers in the field of medical technology for centuries – from inventing groundbreaking treatments and technologies to leading advances across health sciences. But, many of their contributions are often overlooked or forgotten.
In honor of Women’s History Month this month, Cenmed would like to set the record straight by highlighting ten women whose accomplishments changed medicine forever.
From developing pioneering inventions in sterilization to launching revolutionary career paths, these women used their ingenuity and talent to leave anindelible mark on medical history. Read on and learn more about the top ten female trailblazers who forged a path into the scientific world and made incredible advancements within medical technology.
1. Marie Curie (1867-1934)
When people think of notable historical scientists who also happened to be women, Madame Curie is frequently one of the first names that come to mind. Born in Warsaw to academic parents, Curie learned physics and math at an early age. She wanted to keep learning, so she went to a Polish university that accepted women for higher education. Curie moved to Paris with her sister in 1891 and enrolled in their university to study chemistry, math, and physics. Her hard work paid off, and by 1893, she had earned a degree in physics and was working in an industrial laboratory. Curie was introduced to Pierre Curie, a professor in industrial physics and chemistry. Their mutual love of science brought them close; they worked in the same laboratory and eventually married.
By finding radium and polonium, Marie Curie and her husband Pierre made it possible to make x-rays and find ways to treat cancer. Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for her work discovering radioactivity.
2. Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019)
Patricia Bath always knew at a young age that she wanted to study medicine. Dr. Albert Schweiter, a philosopher and humanitarian who contributed to thefunding of medical care in Africa, served as her inspiration. Bath excelled in her studies, earning awards and recognitions for her scientific research. She received her medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and interned at Harlem Hospital. While in Harlem, Bath noticed that many patients in their clinic were visually impaired or blind. This inspired her to help her community.
Patricia Bath developed the Laserphaco Probe System in 1986, a laser-based technology that makes cataract removal more precise and comfortable. In 1973,Bath was the first African-American to finish a residency in ophthalmology. In 1988, she was the first doctor of color to get a medical patent.
3. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011)
Rosalyn Yalow was born in New York City to Jewish parents. While her mother suggested she pursue a teaching degree, Yalow chose to study physics after becoming fascinated by nuclear physics. During the start of World War II, many men were drafted into the military. With the shortage of men, Yalow was offered the opportunity to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois in 1941. She was the first female graduate at the university to study physics theresince 1971. After receiving her doctorate in 1945, she started working at a research post at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital in 1947, focusing on developing the use of radioisotopes in medicine.
The radioimmunoassay was developed by medical physicist Rosalyn Yalow in collaboration with Solomon Berson. Following the discovery, researchers were able to examine minuscule amounts of “biological active substances,” such as blood, tissue, and viruses. In the end, the method was employed to detectviruses like hepatitis in blood banks and to determine the best drug dosages. Yalow eventually received the Nobel prize in 1977 for her contributions.
4. Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal (1946-2022)
Flossie Wong-Staal was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1946. As a young child, her family fled to Hong Kong, where many other Chinese citizens went during the Communist revolution. During her time in Hong Kong, Wong-Staal excelled in her science studies while attending the Maryknoll Convent School. Her parents and teachers encouraged her to continue her education in science and attend a university in the United States. At age 18,Wong-Staal earned a bachelor’s degree in science and bacteriology from the University of California, San Diego, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology from UCLA in 1972.
In 1985, Wong-Staal successfully cloned the HIV virus and used it to map the genes of HIV. Due to this success, a genetic map of the virus was created,opening the door to HIV blood tests. Wong-Staal, a Chinese-American molecular biologist and virologist, was the first person to be able to clone the virus. The Institute for Scientific Information recognized Wong-Staal as the top female scientist of the 1980s.
5. Ida Henrietta Hyde (1857-1945)
Ida Henrietta Hyde was born to German immigrant parents in Davenport, Iowa. Having to help support her family, she began working as a milliner’s apprentice at the age of 14. While she was working, she discovered a book about biology and nature, which created a great interest in Hyde. She furtheredher education by entering a college preparatory school and later attending the University of Illinois. While her education was consistently on hold due to family issues, she was able to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of 34 from Cornell University. Hyde soon worked as an assistant at Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, where she was able to conduct research and eventually received a European Fellowship from the Association of Collegiate Alumnae.
The microelectrode was created in the 1930s by Ida Henrietta Hyde. Hyde was also the first woman to enroll in Harvard Medical School, graduate from the University of Heidelberg, conduct research there, and be elected to the American Physiological Society.
6. Dr. Ann Tsukamoto
California-born Ann Tsukamoto quickly rose to prominence as an Asian American stem cell researcher and inventor. Tsukamoto completed her postdoctoralwork at the University of California, San Francisco, after receiving her Ph.D. in immunology and macrobiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Tsukamoto came up with a technique for stem-cell isolation – a feat that had long perplexed scientists. The breakthrough ultimately led to further advances in oncology. Tsukamoto was eventually named to a 1991 patent for the process of isolating human stem cells. She is now continuing her work on stem cells at a company known as Stem Cells Inc.
7. Letitia Mumford Geer (1852-1935)
Letita Mumford Geer was born in 1852 to a sizable family in New York. Geer started to exhibit a fascination for the healthcare sector at a young age. When she started her work as a nurse, she was already breaking down social barriers for women.
The current medical syringe was invented in 1899 by Letita Geer. Before her innovation, syringes required two hands to operate. She was granted a patent for the invention, which was described as a “hand-syringe” made up of “a cylinder, a piston, and an operating rod that is bent upon itself to form a smoothand rigid arm terminating in a handle that, in its extreme positions, is located within reach of the fingers of the hand that holds the cylinder, thus permitting one hand to hold and operate the syringe.”
8. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
Rosalind Franklin was born into an affluent influential British Jewish family in 1920. At a young age, Franklin demonstrated remarkable scholastic abilities, and joined her brother at a private day school in West London. Her aunt, Helen Bentwich, described Franklin as, “…alarmingly clever – she spends all her time doing arithmetic for pleasure, and invariably gets her sums right.” By age 11, she attended St. Paul’s Girls’ School in West London, one of the few girls’ schools that taught chemistry and physics. Franklin went on to attend Newnham College, Cambridge and studied chemistry. She achieved many praises forher ongoing studies, and was eventually awarded a research fellowship at Newnham College, where she joined the physical chemistry laboratory of the University of Cambridge.
Some people say that the English chemist Rosalind Franklin was the first person to figure out how DNA is put together. Even though that is debatable,Franklin was a pioneer in molecular biology. He took the first x-ray pictures of DNA. Her pictures, which were taken with a machine that Franklin had changed, showed a lot about how DNA is put together. Francis Crick and James D. Watson’s model of DNA, which they published in 1953, was based on one of Franklin’s pictures.
9-10. Betty Rozier and Lisa Vallino, BSN, RN
When Lisa Vallino of Hazelwood, Missouri, was young, she would often use a toy first-aid kit to help her brothers. It was in her blood to care about otherpeople. Vallino said, “I’ve always known I wanted to be a nurse.” As the CEO of I.V. House, the St. Louis native has built a million- dollar medical business to care for people of all ages, just as she has always done.
Betty Rozier and Lisa Vallino, who are mother and daughter, came up with a shield for intravenous catheters. This has made using IVs safer and easier. Vallino, a nurse with a lot of experience in the emergency room and pediatrics wards, thought of a polyethylene device in the shape of a computer mouse thatwould act as a kind of IV house. Vallino worked on the device with her mother, Better Rozier. In 1993, the two of them got a patent for it. Vallino is the president and clinical director of the company named after the invention, I.V. House. Rozier is now president emeritus of the company. From 1991 to 2011, he was president.
A minority- and woman-owned business, Cenmed Enterprises was established in 1992 as a medical supply distributor in the New York City metro area. Over the years, the brand has evolved to include specialty chemical manufacturing, equipment maintenance and management, specialty product design and manufacture, and kitting and packaging. To learn more about our services and offerings, please call (732) 447-1100 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.