In a field typically dominated by men, women comprise only one-third of scientific researchers and only 13% of cardiologists yet their critical research contributions and historical innovations continue to shape the practice of cardiometabolic medicine. As a celebration of Women’s History Month, CMHC is spotlighting five female pioneers in the field of cardiovascular health whose contributions broke down barriers to entry paving the way for future generations of women while enhancing global heart health and standards of patient care.
Maude Abbott, MD 1869-1940
A Canadian physician and one of the nation’s earliest female medical graduates, Maude Abbott received her MD degree from Bishop’s University as the only woman in her class. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Abbott opened her own practice in Montreal while working with the Royal Victoria hospital and during her tenure as the first female member of the Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society. At her independent clinic devoted to the treatment of women and children, Abbott conducted research in cardiovascular pathology, specifically heart disease in newborn babies. She is best known for inventing the international classification system for congenital heart disease which became the definitive reference guide for the condition and made her the world authority on heart defects.
Helen B. Taussig, MD, FACC 1898-1986
Widely recognized as the founder of pediatric cardiology, Helen B. Taussig graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and went on to head the Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric unit. In 1941, Dr. Taussig first proposed an operation technique to correct the congenital heart defect responsible for “blue baby” syndrome which was successfully performed in 1944 and shortly thereafter used worldwide. Dr. Taussig was awarded full professorship at Johns Hopkins University as one of the first women in the school’s history. As the founder of the pediatric cardiology subspecialty, Taussig received the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and in 1965, she became the first female president of the American Heart Association.
Myra Adele Logan, MD 1908-1977
Pioneering surgeon Myra Adele Logan was the first woman to perform open-heart surgery and the ninth to do so worldwide. Throughout her medical career, Dr. Logan conducted research of new antibiotic therapies as well as the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, including her notable contributions to the development of more accurate tests to identify density differences in breast tissue facilitating early detection. Her myriad of medical and public health accomplishments resulted in her election to the American College of Surgeons as the first African American woman; she was also a founding partner of the first physicians group practice in the United States.
Sharon A. Hunt, MD
Sharon Hunt graduated from the Stanford University School of Medicine as one of seven women in 1967. Throughout the course of her career, Dr. Hunt’s work revolutionized the field of heart transplantation improving survival rates by identifying and treating organ rejection while reducing the side effects of medications. Her 50 years of research, patient care, teaching, and mentorship resulted in her receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation in 2012. Today, Dr. Hunt is a member of the Cardiovascular Institute and professor emerita of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University.
Nanette Kass Wenger, MD 1930-
American clinical cardiologist and professor emerita at Emory University School of Medicine, Nanette Wenger was among the first cardiologists to focus on heart disease in women as well as the risk factors and manifestations of coronary artery disease. For her distinguished contributions to the field, Dr. Wenger was nominated as one of Time magazine’s “Women of the Year” in 1976, received the American Medical Women’s Association’s (AMWA) Woman in Science President’s Award in 1993, as well as the Elizabeth Blackwell Award in 2000. Today after 67 years of practice, Dr. Wenger specializes in cardiovascular disease in Atlanta, GA at Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital Internal Medicine.
The paramount contributions of these pioneering female cardiologists paved the way for future generations of women pursuing careers in cardiometabolic health, including CMHC’s world-renowned faculty members that deliver excellence in continuing medical education across the globe.