Author: Sara Habibipour
This pride month, let's recognize some of the LGBTQ+ individuals who, regardless of stigma surrounding their identities, continued to persevere, be themselves, and all the while, change medical history for the better.
Sara Josephine Baker
Sara Josephine Baker was a lesbian physician known for her contributions to the field of public health, especially in the immigrant communities of New York City.
Baker taught herself chemistry and botany after the death of her father and brother. She later enrolled in the New York Infirmary College and became a practicing physician by 1901. She was the first female graduate from New York University Medical School with a Doctorate.
She is credited with the creation of an infant formula which enabled women to return to work, an eye drop system which prevented infant blindness as a result of gonorrhea, and safety lessons for midwives on how to properly deliver babies.
However, she is most famous for catching the "patient zero" of the New York Typhoid outbreak, and establishing the idea of "preventative medicine" in New York communities.
Ethel Collins Dunham and Martha May Elliot
Dunham and Eliot met each other at Bryn Mawr in 1910 where they first formed a lifelong bond. In 1914, they entered medical school together at Johns Hopkins. They counted on internships at Johns Hopkins, but only Dunham was accepted. Eliot went to Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and completed her residency in St. Louis. However, they were again reunited at Yale in 1919.
Ethel's studies mainly focused on premature babies and newborns, becoming chief of child development at the Children's Bureau in 1935. She established national standards for newborn care and expanded the scope of health care for young children by monitoring their progress in regular home visits by Children's Bureau staff. From 1949 to 1951, she studied the problem of premature birth with an international team of experts for the World Health Organization in Geneva.
Meanwhile, Durham became one of Yale School of Medicine's first female professors. She was appointed instructor at Yale School of Medicine in 1920, promoted to assistant professor in 1924, and associate clinical professor in 1927. Her studies were also centered around improving the health of premature and newborn babies. In 1933, she presented her research on neonatal mortality and morbidity to the American Pediatric Society, which then appointed her head of its committee on neonatal studies.
Cecilia Chung, currently 56 years old and born in Hong Kong, is an advocate for human rights, social justice, health equity, and LGBT equality.
Today, she works as the Director of Evaluation and Strategic Initiatives at Transgender Law Center in San Francisco. In 2008, she became the first transgender woman and first person living openly with HIV to chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
In addition, she served on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2013 to 2015. And, most recently, she founded Positively Trans, a national network of transgender people living with HIV, especially people of color, focused on storytelling, policy advocacy, and leadership development.