Celebrating Women In Healthcare

April 18, 2022

Celebrating Women In Healthcare 

Women have a long history of being caretakers. From traditional folk medicine to holistic healthcare practitioners, and the pioneers who paved the way for the modern medical system, women have long stood at the forefront of health and caregiving. 

As a woman in the health industry, I feel a strong sense of compassion and responsibility to support those around me. When women feel empowered to take initiative with their own health as well as the health of their community, the effects are profound. Prioritizing women in health creates positive ripples and increases family and community well-being. 

With that being said, I continue to be inspired by women who have pioneered the healthcare industry. As I reflect on Women’s History Month, I would like to extend gratitude and recognition to the women pioneers who paved the way for women in healthcare. 


1. Elizabeth Blackwell, MD
The first woman in the United States to obtain a medical degree in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell paved the way for many young women to follow.

2. Florence Nightingale
A pioneer in nursing practices, Florence Nightingale was a caregiver during the Crimean War of the 1850s. She set the standard for modern sanitation practices.

3. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD
The first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the United States in 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler brought about a turning point in the history of women in healthcare with her resilience and devotion to others.

4. Mary Edwards Walker, MD
The first woman to receive the Presidential Medal of Honor, Mary Edwards Walker was the first female U.S. Army Surgeon in 1861 during the Civil War.

5. Antonia Novello, MD
Dr. Antonia Novella was the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as surgeon general of the United States. She also played an influential role in pediatrics and was a passionate advocate for childrens’ health.

To this day, women continue to make history and take healthcare into their own hands. The US Healthcare Industry is frequently cited as the Gold Standard for diversity in the workplace, with women healthcare workers making up about 77% of the workforce. Since the turn of the century, women have been the primary drivers for growth in the medical field. However, executive and leadership positions still tend to be dominated by men in terms of numbers and salaries. As far as pioneering the future for women in healthcare, this is an area where we have some work to do. 

There are other non-caregiving roles in healthcare in which women are also important as demonstrated by the women below:


1. Nancy Schlichting
Pioneering leadership in healthcare, Nancy Schlichting held senior executive positions at various health care organizations for three decades and served as CEO of the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan for 13 years.

2. Laura Forese, MD

Laura Forese is currently the executive vice president and chief operating officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and has taught medicine at Columbia University. She continues to act as a leader and a teacher in the healthcare industry.  

3. Karen S. Lynch 

Executive vice president of CVS Health (current) and the president of the Aetna business unit, Karen S. Lynch is a champion of women’s leadership and encourages diversity in leadership roles.

4. Paula Steiner
President and CEO of Health Care Service Corporation since 2016, Paula Steiner began her career at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and has since worked her way up to various leadership roles within the health insurance and related industries.

5. Mary Jo Williamson
Vice Chair for administration and a trustee of the Mayo Clinic, Mary Jo Williamson started her career in finance and has since taken on executive leadership roles at Mayo as the Chief Administrative Officer. She is an advocate for hardwork and dedication, and her life is a living representation of those values.

6. Rosalin Brewer
Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Board of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Rosalin Brewer is one of only two Black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and was ranked #6 on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2021.

Continuing to Invest in Women

As we continue farther into the 21st Century, there is even more opportunity for women to shape the healthcare industry. By stepping into leadership positions, women will have a positive impact on healthcare and guide the way towards an  industry that honors caregiving and empowers women. Their unique perspective and experience as primary caregivers will help shape the future in new ways from their seat at the executive table in healthcare. It’s an exciting time to be a woman in healthcare!

Health Care in Women’s Hands
Women Leading Change in Healthcare 
History of Women in Healthcare 
Women as Empowered Care Takers 
Rosalin Brewer

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