Friday, October 23, 2009

The Power of Women

October 23, 2009: Mary Elizabeth Garrett

Yesterday I had the pleasure of touring The Anne and Michael Armstrong Medical Education Building, the new home of medical student education at Johns Hopkins. The building is beautiful: a glass atrium, center staircase, digital classrooms and an advanced anatomy lab to usher in a new era of medical education. The expansive halls exhibit portraits of Hopkins Nobel prize winners, men and women who made medical history and outstanding donors of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

A life-size copy of John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Mary Elizabeth Garrett caught my eye. In the late 1800’s Ms. Garrett, a strong advocate for women and a family friend of Mr. Johns Hopkins, organized the national “Women’s Medical School Fund.” This campaign sought to raise the remaining funds necessary to open the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In the end, it was Ms. Garrett’s personal gift that achieved the campaign goal enabling the completion of the School of Medicine. The women’s gifts, however, were contingent upon a pledge that the School of Medicine would admit women and provide women the opportunity to fully participate in clinical care, academic teaching and medical research. The trustees accepted the generous gift of Ms. Garrett and others, and in 1894 the School of Medicine opened its doors with 15 men and three women in the institution’s first medical school class.

The display speaks to Ms. Garrett’s extraordinary gift as well as her personal commitment to the advancement of women. I sometimes reflect upon the satisfaction she might have had knowing about A Woman’s Journey and the Johns Hopkins’ annual women’s health conference’s dedication to educate today’s women about advances in medicine.


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