November 9 – Happy Birthday, Florence R. Sabin

Posted on November 9, 2018

Did you know that the female donors who funded the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine insisted that the donations would only be made if women were admitted as well as men?

I guess that Johns Hopkins University's
undergrad program wasn't co-ed until
Since that was waaaay back in 1893, I think that is surprising as well as cool. That means that the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine was one of the first co-ed medical colleges.

Three years after this co-ed medical school was begun, Florence R. Sabin entered as a student. Born in Colorado Territory on this date in 1871, Sabin had earned a bachelor's degree from Smith College and had taught high school math courses for two years and a zoology course at Smith for one year so that she had enough money to attend med school.

Sabin was soon noticed by her professors. She had great skills of observation and was patient enough to stick with projects to careful completion. Some of her projects included creating a 3-D model of a newborn baby's brain and making discoveries about human development in the womb. 

After graduating from med school, Sabin was given an internship and a research fellowship and soon a teaching job at Johns Hopkins! In 1917, she became the first American woman to become a full professor at a medical college.

She also became the first woman president of the American Association of Anatomists.

Yet, no matter how much of a standout she was, Florence Sabin still faced discrimination for being a woman. 

Shortly after Sabin left the Johns Hopkins faculty, partly because of the institutionalized sexism she faced there, she became head of a department at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York City. And she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. For 20 years, she remained the ONLY woman in that esteemed academy!

After an amazing career, Florence Sabin retired from teaching and research - only to work hard on advocating for reform in public health. 

Which is...SO important.

Sabin is one of the few women chosen by her state for a part of the National Statuary Hall Collection that is displayed in the U.S. Capitol. 

(Each state chooses two of its citizens to so honor, and Colorado chose this amazing doctor / teacher plus astronaut Jack Swigert. Good on you, Colorado, for honoring scientists and explorers over politicians and generals.)

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