Female Pioneers of Medicine and Radiology

Discover the many ways that women have influenced and enhanced the practice of medicine at the National Library of Medicine online exhibit 'Celebrating America's Women Physicians'

Mary Stuart Fisher, MD

Dr. Fisher was a woman of “firsts.” Born on August 12, 1922 in Binghamton, NY to Stuart Banyar Blakely, MD and Miriam Brothers Blakely, Dr. Fisher was first in her Binghamton, New York high school class, first in her class at Bryn Mawr College, and first in her class at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She was the first woman president of the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society (the oldest radiological society in the world), and the first woman physician to have her portrait commissioned and hung at Temple University Medical School. Married to George Ross Fisher III, MD in 1950, she spent 50 years teaching diagnostic radiology to generations of Philadelphia medical students and residents. One of her notable former students, New York University professor of radiology, Hildegard Toth, MD was recently quoted as follows in Radiata (New York University radiology news magazine):

Radiology became my choice and Dr. Mary Fisher was my reason. She was elegant, beautiful, and very smart. She simply flipped up the (chest x-ray), told the patient’s story and was always certain of the diagnosis. How did she do that? What did she see that others did not? I wanted to do this too. She still has no idea of the influence she had on my career choice. Radiata (Spring/Summer 2005, pp 1-5).

She was offered the chairmanship of the departments of radiology at nearly all of the hospitals in Philadelphia and declined them all, remarking that she “didn’t want to be the chairman of anything.”

Her first teaching appointment, after completing her internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, was at the Philadelphia Veteran’s Administration Hospital under the tutelage of George Wohl, MD. She then spent 15 years at Philadelphia General Hospital, which had affiliations with all of the medical schools in Philadelphia. In a June, 2005 interview, Dr. Fisher stated that, if she were in a vegetative state and were asked where she worked, she would probably still say “PGH!”

After PGH closed in 1975, she joined the staff of Temple University Medical School where she served on the staff of the Diagnostic Imaging Department and continued to train medical students and residents as Professor of Radiology until her retirement in 2003 (at the age of 80!).

Dr. Fisher was a diplomate of the American Board of Radiology since 1953; a member of the American Medical Association, the Philadelphia County Medical Society, the Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society (President 1982-1983), the Radiological Society of North America, the Association of University Radiologists, the Association of Women in Radiology, the Pennsylvania Radiological Society, the Society of Thoracic Radiologists; a fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and of the American College of Radiology; and a consultant for the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Dr. Fisher published nearly 50 articles and book chapters, and over 35 papers, presentations, and exhibits on radiology, spanning a wide range of subjects; she commented that one paper or article per year was ‘about right.’ She was honored throughout her career for her contributions to the field. These honors include the Russell P. Moses Memorial Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching (Temple University, 1980); Honored Radiologist (Pennsylvania Radiological Society, 1985); Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (Temple, 1985); “Golden Apple” (Temple medical students’ award for favorite teacher, 1990); Marie Curie Award (American Association for Women Radiologists, 1992); Outstanding Educator Award (Philadelphia Roentgen Ray Society, 1992); and Physician of the Year (Temple University Hospital, 1996).

Born under the annual August Perseid meteor shower, Dr. Fisher traveled widely throughout the world to see the Perseids in different locales. She attended Haddonfield (NJ) Friends Meeting for the past 50 years, and served on the school committee of the Haddonfield Friends School long after her children graduated. She spent 25 years caring for, in turn, her mother; her aunt, and her mother-in-law. She loved gardening, music, and her family.

If you are interested in receiving an oral history of Dr.Fisher on DVD, send an email request to MSchaefer@chemheritage.org.

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD

Learn about the first woman to graduate from a US medical school Cofounder of the New York Infirmary and Children and the New York Women's Medical College.  Click here

Edith Quimby, PhD

Her work provided the first practical guidelines to physicians using radiation therapy, she was the first to establish the levels of radiation that the human body could tolerate, and was the first female radiophysicist to be appointed as president of the American Radium Society. She received ACR Gold Medal in 1963.  Click here

Alice Ettinger, MD

A radiologist and educator who brought the technique of spot-film imaging to the United States in 1932, she was the first chairwoman of radiology at Tufts University School of Medicine. Then in 1982, Dr. Ettinger received an RSNA Gold Medal and in 1984 ACR Gold Medal.  Click here

Rosalyn Yalow, PhD

Rosalyn Yalow, PhD - recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine in 1977, for the development of radioimmunoassay of peptide hormones. She received the ACR Gold Medal in 1993 and the RSNA Gold Medal in 1994.  Dr. Yalow passed away at the age of 89, on May 30, 2011.  Click here

Lucy Frank Squire, MD

Lucy Frank Squire, MD, was the first woman to be enrolled as a resident in Massachusetts General Hospital's radiology program in 1940 and the first woman radiologist to receive the AAWR Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award in 1986. Dr. Squire was an outstanding radiologist who became known as a medical educator and mentor to generations of students at the State University of New York (SUNY) Health Science Center. In 1964, Dr. Squire published the first edition of her landmark book Fundamentals of Radiology which has become a standard introductory text for radiology. Dr. Squire received the Gold Medal of the RSNA in 1972. Dr. Squire passed away in 1996, but her teaching enthusiasm and spirit are maintained in the revised version of her classic radiology text.  Click here

The AAWR Lucy Frank Squire Distinguished Resident Award in Diagnosti Radiology is given yearly to a resident who has demonstrated outstanding contributions in clinical care, teaching, research, or public service