As two of the first black women doctors in the United States, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler and Dr. Rebecca J. Cole faced numerous challenges and obstacles throughout their careers, including discrimination and racism.
Dr. Crumpler graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864, becoming the first African American woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. She faced numerous obstacles in her early career due to her race and gender. After completing her medical degree, she practiced medicine in Boston, where she worked primarily with women and children. She faced significant discrimination from male doctors who refused to refer patients to her and even went as far as to actively discourage people from seeking her care.
Similarly, Dr. Cole faced discrimination and racism throughout her career. After completing medical school at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867, she went on to practice medicine in South Carolina. However, she faced significant opposition from white male doctors who refused to work with her or refer patients to her too. Despite these challenges, Dr. Cole was determined to provide the best care possible for her patients and worked tirelessly to improve access to medical care for African Americans in the South.
Both Dr. Crumpler and Dr. Cole were trailblazers in the medical field, paving the way for future generations of black women doctors. Today, black women make up only 2% of practicing physicians in the United States, despite representing 13% of the population. This disparity is due in part to the ongoing discrimination and racism that black women doctors face in the medical field. According to a 2018 study, black female doctors are more likely to face discrimination from patients, colleagues, and superiors than their white counterparts. They are also more likely to experience burnout and are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions.
Despite these challenges, black women doctors continue to make significant contributions to the medical field. They are leaders in addressing health disparities in underserved communities and are at the forefront of research into issues that disproportionately affect black patients, such as sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS, and maternal mortality. It is essential that we continue to support and uplift black women doctors and work to address the systemic racism and discrimination that they face in the medical field.
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