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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘A Lady Alone’ to honor women physicians

    The Women Physicians exhibit opened in the Health Sciences Library on Thursday, showcasing figurines and a wall of history dedicated to women in the medical profession.
    The Women Physicians exhibit opened in the Health Sciences Library on Thursday, showcasing figurines and a wall of history dedicated to women in the medical profession.

    America’s first female doctor has gone from the hospital room to the auditorium stage.

    “”A Lady Alone: Elizabeth Blackwell, First American Woman Doctor”” will be presented today, Feb. 18, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the University Medical Center’s DuVal Auditorium, 1606 E. Lester St.

    “”Elizabeth Blackwell was accepted into college as a joke,”” said N. Lynn Eckert, playwright and director of academic programs at Harvard Medical International. “”She ended up surpassing everyone and graduated at the top of her class, in 1849.””

    After collecting Blackwell’s letters that were scattered in libraries, Eckert said she was able to pull fragments of information together to write a story of Blackwell’s struggle and perseverance.

    “”I was fascinated by her story and realized a lot of people didn’t know about her. I thought maybe write a book, but then I considered writing this play,”” Eckert said.

    Eckert, who had never written a play before, said she was compelled to tell the story of Blackwell because she felt she could relate to it.

    “”Her story needs to be told. She went through a great labor of love,”” Eckert said. “”When I graduated from medical school, only 9 percent of my class was women.

    “”I feel like I experienced the isolation she felt. She coped; she was bold and she took a risk.””

    Eckert, who is currently in Lebanon working to open up a medical school, said she is proud to have her play presented throughout the country.

    “”The play demonstrates that if you really believe in your dreams and you are persistent, you can be successful. She opened the doors for women,”” Eckert said. “”Her wonderful belief and persistence made it happen and that should be a lesson for all of us.””

    A reception honoring “”Arizona’s 11 local legends,”” will be held before the play in the Arizona Health Sciences Library from 6 to 7 p.m.

    The local legends are women physicians who have been recognized by the American Medical Women’s Association for their demonstrated commitment and innovation in the field of medicine, said Tamsen Bassford, department head of UA family and community medicine.

    It’s important to honor women in medicine and although she doesn’t have one particular woman who inspired her, Bassford said she is fortunate to have had many in her lifetime, she said.

    “”Whether it’s other doctors, parents, teachers, every one is a mentor along the way. It’s the core of being a physician: helping others. Being able to watch faculty make contributions makes me proud; it’s all about the people,”” Bassford said. “”To know what women before you have contributed gives you hope and inspires you.””

    Marlys Witte, a professor in the department of surgery in the UA College of Medicine, said that in addition to the play, the difficulties and triumphs of American women physicians are displayed in the medical library as part of a traveling exhibit called “”Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians.””

    The exhibit, which lasts from Feb. 12 to March 27, includes Arizona’s 11 Local Legends, as well as a collection of women physician memorabilia, Witte said.

    “”It’s a time to celebrate women,”” Witte said. “”There is a long history of women who have struggled, who don’t get recognition. We need to bring attention to a history that’s been forgotten. Over a century ago, women weren’t even part of medicine, now look at all their contributions.””

    Witte said the exhibit and the play both bring the same message to campus.

    “”Fight the good fight. Don’t compromise. Go for it. Blackwell wanted to be something; she didn’t want to be excluded. The more she was excluded, the more she persisted,”” Witte said.

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