6 Women Pioneers in Healthcare Technology 

EHR Data continues to build on the foundations provided by so many healthcare technology pioneers that have come before. Long before “health-tech” referred to robot surgeons and databases and the latest genomic therapies, healthcare pioneers were discovering and developing and researching new and better ways to advance patient care. In this blog, we’re honoring a few of the women who have made substantial impacts on healthcare technology. 

Dr. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) 

Despite being labelled “too sensitive” or unable to understand medical curriculum, Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler graduated from the New England Female Medical College. Dr. Crumpler believed in the “lifesaving power of preventative practices” and “wanted other women to gain from her observations and accumulated knowledge.” She worked to help formerly enslaved individuals make a successful transition to freedom and citizenship through the Freedmen’s Bureau and later ran a very busy medical practice in Boston. The majority of her career was dedicated to educating women about pregnancy and childbirth in a time when those topics were taboo in polite company. Extending her reach well beyond only the patients that she could see and treat personally, she wrote one of the most important volumes on disease prevention, A Book of Medical Discourses to offer her experience and knowledge not only to mothers but also to nurses and “all who may desire to mitigate the afflictions of the human race.” At a time when superstitions, old wives’ tales, and often dangerous home remedies caused more harm than good, her book functioned like a very early What to Expect When You’re Expecting with a focus on practical advice and preventative care. Dr. Crumpler was an early champion of putting medical knowledge into the hands of the patient. 

Photo Source: Centreville Sentinel

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) 

At the onset of the American Civil war, Dr. Walker offered her services to the Union Army, but had to serve as a volunteer as she was not allowed to enlist nor serve as a doctor. She began her service as a nurse instead and quickly earned a position as a field surgeon’s assistant. Though she was always designated as a civilian, she was awarded an army commission eventually. Taken for several months in 1864 as a Confederate prisoner of war, she was accused of being a spy. After her release, she returned to her duties and served through the end of the war. For her heroic actions at the First Battle of Bull Run, Dr. Walker is the only woman to have ever received the Medal of Honor. After the war, she went on to champion women’s rights and temperance as well as a run for political office. Her valor and efforts in battlefield and triage care make Dr. Walker a paragon of the pioneering medical spirit that we benefit from today. 

Photo Source: Time Magazine

Patricia Goldman-Rakic, PhD (1937-2003) 

At a time when the general scientific consensus was the prefrontal cortex as considered to be far too complex to research in any beneficial detail, Dr. Goldman-Rakic mapped the region and, thus, made important discoveries in the areas of cognition, working memory, and planning. Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach though combining the fields of anatomy, biochemistry, and pharmacology Dr. Goldman-Rakic achieved unprecedented breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia. At her untimely death she had published more than 200 papers as well as many, many honors including admission to the National Academy of Sciences. Our modern understandings of mental health owe a great debt to Dr. Goldman-Rakic’s pioneering work. 

Photo Source: Nature.com

Gerty Theresa Cori, PhD (1896-1957) 

The Drs. Cori worked together throughout their careers but were seldom treated as equals in the field. As biomedical researchers, they collaborated on dozens of papers. Their research led to the Cori Cycle that explains how glucose is metabolized and became a key aspect in the understanding and treatment of diabetes. Though her husband, Dr. Carl Cori, was promoted to a department chair at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Dr. Gerty Cori remained a research assistant until the pair won the Nobel Prize when she was promoted to a professor of biochemistry. Additionally, the Cori craters on the moon and Venus are named for her. 

Photo Source: Nobelprize.org

Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) 

Initially discouraged from a career in surgery, then passed over for the chair position in her department of 11 years in favor of a male colleague, Dr. Apgar moved on to work with infantsWhen she found no standard of care for newborns and observed that many then went home with undiagnosed problems, she developed a methodical method of assessing their overall health. The Apgar Test has since become known as the gold standard for determining the health of a newborn. Later in her career, Dr. Apgar spearheaded the shift of the March of Dimes, where she served as Vice President of Medical Affairs, from a focus on polio to the health problems of infants. Dr. Apgar’s pioneering dedication to empowering parents with the education and standards to provide the best care for their infants has saved countless lives. 

Photo Source: Nih.gov

Cheryl Jorgenson, PharmD, MS. CSP 

Our very own Chief Clinical Officer & Consultant, Cheryl Jorgenson, has been honored twice by The Healthcare Technology Report as one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare Software. Cheryl has dedicated her professional life to the empowerment of pharmacists as healthcare providers and important members on the front line of patient care. As a staunch patient advocate, Cheryl has brought over 25 years of pharmacy experience into the realm of healthcare technology through her work with development and design teams to produce clinical solutions for pharmacy. Additionally, Cheryl has been a featured speaker at international conferences including, most recently, CoinGeek Londonwhere she discussed the need for data ownership for both safety and autonomy.