Celebrating Women Physicians Day 2023

Physicians at RUSH reflect on the impact of women in medicine
Salina Lee, MD, with a patient

Feb. 3 is National Women Physicians Day and the birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female medical doctor in the United States. This day is an opportunity to honor women physicians and celebrate their impact and accomplishments in medicine.

“The first woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. was Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell in 1849," RUSH President and CEO Dr. Omar Lateef says. "She had an indomitable spirit — persisting to apply to medical schools after she was rejected 29 times because she was a woman. In the end, she graduated first in her class. Today, I especially want to applaud the hundreds of women physicians who bring their indomitable spirits to RUSH every day.” 

We asked RUSH physicians to reflect on what the recognition day means to them and why they chose a career in medicine.

Malathi Rao, DO, Neurology

"As the first woman physician in my family, I am fortunate to have had incredible support to pursue my dreams. I could not have done it without my mom, who was by my side every step of the way. Now, I am grateful to have the opportunity to inspire other young women to go into medicine, encourage them to be resilient, to not take 'no' for an answer and to keep breaking down barriers!"

Annabelle Volgman, MD, Cardiology

"I went into medicine to help people stay healthy and not suffer from diseases that are preventable. I've been a doctor for almost 40 years, and it’s been incredibly fulfilling. As a woman in medicine, I've been able to give a perspective that male doctors may not be able to. I cofounded the RUSH Heart Center for Women to give the best care to women with heart disease and do research to understand how heart disease affects women."

Robin Drake, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology

"In the past few decades, OB-GYN physicians and trainees are increasingly women caring for women and those assigned female at birth. Many of us have shared experiences with our patients, which can deepen our understanding and improve care. I am thankful for my fantastic colleagues and thankful that we can provide comprehensive reproductive care and options for our diverse patient population here at RUSH."

Mitra Afshari, MD, Neurology

“I feel that women physicians are the unsung heroes of this age, taking on so many different roles for our patients, families and friends. I hope this day is a reminder to all women physicians out there of your strength, resilience and power. Let us all remember to uplift and support each other as much as possible, locally and overseas. Women. Life. Freedom.”

Sindhura Bandi, MD, Allergy and Immunology

"This day represents the journey women have taken in medicine, from Elizabeth Blackwell as the first female physician to recent years in which females have comprised the majority of medical students in the U.S. Women have played an important role in medicine and healing for centuries; however, it is only recently that the contributions of women in medicine and science have been recognized. Recent studies have demonstrated that women physicians are leaders in providing patient-centered care, and the scholarly work of female physician-scientists has exponentially grown in the last few decades."

"In medicine, I have the opportunity to listen to and connect with a patient and apply what I have learned (or seek out further knowledge) to improve their quality of life. I find this to be incredibly gratifying and exciting."

Erica Engelstein, MD, Cardiology

"I am proud to be a woman physician in the male-dominated field of interventional electrophysiology. I hope to inspire the next generation of women electrophysiologists."

Salina Lee, MD, Gastroenterology

"I went into medicine because there is no greater privilege than to share the most vulnerable parts of life — be it the pursuit of health, illness, suffering, death — with another human being. It’s the highest honor and deepest joy to be someone's doctor."

Arin Ford, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology

"Women physicians continue to play a crucial role in medicine through patient care, education, advocacy and research. As an OB-GYN doctor, I am honored to provide care to women throughout their lives. Thank you to my patients for their continued trust and support."

Vidya Mandiyan, MD, Hospital Medicine

"I went into medicine because I think the human body is the world's most amazing machine. What I found once I started practicing was a love for the restoration of health and well-being to the population I serve. The ability to help those I treat regain a healthy life is what keeps me coming back to work every day. It is an honor and a privilege to be part of that process."

Joy Sclamberg, MD, Radiology and Graduate Medical Education

"I am so incredibly proud of the many women physicians at RUSH. I've also had the opportunity to have a number of women mentors here (Jean Silvestri, Melody Cobleigh and Vijaya Reddy to name a few). In my role with Graduate Medical Education, I work with and learn from the new generation of young women physicians coming up through training who are so smart, confident and resilient. I am so impressed by them every single day."

Zoe Arvanitakis, MD, RUSH Medical College

"Many highly motivated and bright women globally, including my own grandmother, are denied the opportunity to even apply to medical school. This is a day to celebrate women physicians, such as Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first female doctor in the U.S. These women paved the way for others to make critical contributions to improve the health for all."

"Many contributions of women to medicine, from small to large, go unrecognized. And for more than 120 years (since 1901), there have only been 11 women (mostly from the U.S.) who won a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine."

"I went into medicine to help improve the brain health of as many persons as possible, through compassionate clinical care, innovative research and transformative education."

Stephanie Kalant, DO, Gastroenterology

"This day is so significant because it spotlights the evolving role of women in the field of medicine. Women are now represented across every specialty and subspecialty of medicine. This has opened the door for our female patients who feel more comfortable with a woman physician, and gives them the opportunity to have a multidisciplinary approach to their care."

Joanna Bisgrove, MD, Family Medicine

"Studies repeatedly show that diversity in gender, race and ethnicity among health care professionals leads to better care for all of our patients. The importance of having women physicians from all backgrounds in the exam rooms with patients and in the C-suites where decisions are made cannot be understated, as the knowledge and perspective women bring to the table is critical to our pursuit of excellent care, every time."

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