My medical school classmate, a member of the study group I profiled in When the Personal was Political, died last weekend after a long illness. She was the oldest and probably the gutsiest of the five of us, starting medical school at age 33. She had chosen to study nutrition first, when she was discouraged from medicine, but after Title IX passed in 1972, mandating that medical schools take the same proportion of women applicants as men applicants, she stepped right up. (From 1969-1970 to 1973-1974, the number of women applicants to medical school tripled.)
Judith (the pseudonym I used in the book) will be remembered as a beloved general internist and for the creative way she combined her nutrition and medical skills. But I remember her grit, her example of grace under pressure and her great sense of humor. She gave all of us in the study group a copy of Doctor Nellie by Helen Macknight Doyle, the autobiography of a pioneering woman doctor in California who practiced in Bishop, CA in the 1890s. It was her way of saying: it’s never been easy for women doctors, let’s just get on with it. She was soft-spoken and gracious but her commitment to excellent care for everyone was fierce. How lucky we were to be her classmates and colleagues.