This Month in Medical History: Dr., not Ms.

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | November 25, 2016
From the November 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

So even with degrees in hand, the newly-minted doctors from the Boston Female Medical College were still considered second-class citizens or second-class physicians by many. It was actually a drive to further separate the sexes. Male physicians were to focus solely on male patients while female physicians would focus on female patients. That would leave child delivery solely to women, as the thinking at the time was that it wasn’t a difficult job and didn’t require superior physical and mental strength.

The hope was also that women physicians would be more sympathetic and comforting to female patients, thereby helping to reduce the need for drugs and the use of medical instruments during delivery, reducing the likelihood of injury to mother or baby.

More than 300 women attended the college over the nearly three decades before it was absorbed into Boston University School of Medicine. Of the 300, nearly a third graduated with doctorates. To graduate, candidates had to have previous medical study experience, two years of attendance at the college, write a thesis and pass a final exam. Starting tuition was $25 each term, with an additional cost of $2 per week for room and board. Most women, however, received scholarships through the Massachusetts State Scholarship Fund.

The country has taken large strides since the first days of women exchanging Miss for Doctor, but it’s obvious there’s still major work to be done. Pay inequality, workplace discrimination and harassment, all these problems and more continue to be factors in the day-to-day jobs of incredibly talented women. It’s been more than 150 years since women were first recognized with the title “doctor.” It’s unforgivable if it takes that long again to be recognized as equals.

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