March is designated as Women’s History Month with March 8th as International Women’s Day. This month is designed to shine a light on the extraordinary women that have blazed a path forward. Often quietly and unrecognized, these women have contributed to advances in all aspects of society.
Finding women in medical school was a rarity up until about 50 years ago. One of the pioneer women in surgery was Nina Starr Braunwald MD. Dr Braunwald graduated from NYU and was one of the first women to train as a general surgeon at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, from 1952 to 1955. She was a pioneer in the surgical cardiac thoracic field as the first women cardiothoracic surgeon. She advanced the field not only for women but for all. Dr Braunwald left a legacy as a pioneer in the thoracic field as an accomplished surgeon and noted researcher. She was the first woman to be certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and the first woman to be elected to the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. She continues to influence women in thoracic surgery and research through the Nina Starr Braunwald Research Award, which is a grant for research awarded to a female cardiothoracic surgeon.
The surgeons that operate on patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma are trained thoracic surgeons. Currently 6% of thoracic surgeons are women.
As we look at some of the leaders in the mesothelioma community today, we see an impressive number of women, all of whom are pioneers and role models for future generations. Some of the most prominent names that come to mind include Dr. Hedy Kindler, Dr. Andrea Wolfe, and Dr. Marjorie Zauderer. Dr. Kindler is an internationally recognized cancer expert who specializes in the medical treatment of cancer at the University of Chicago. Dr. Andrea Wolfe is a thoracic surgeon who is the Director of the Women’s Lung Cancer Program at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Marjorie Zauderer is a medical oncology specialist and co-director of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Mesothelioma Program and chairperson of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
In order to advance society, we learn from the past. Dr. Braunwald’s example and her legacy to advance future generations of women in medicine through support of research allows her pioneering success to continue. Her legacy continues to help researchers search for the cure to malignant mesothelioma.
During March, we pay tribute to the women that have pioneered and opened doors and continue to inspire today’s women and girls to live their dreams!