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A Century of Women at Yale School of Medicine

Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences

A Celebration of Women

The Yale School of Medicine is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of women at the University, and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences would like to feature some of the women who have made medical and scientific contributions in the field of Women's Health.

We are delighted to include a full listing of the incredible women faculty who are currently a part of our Department and who continue to make significant advancements in Science, Medicine, research, teaching and mentoring.

Please visit the Century of Women online exhibit.

Pioneers in OBGYN

Edith B. Jackson, MD

Dr. Edith B. Jackson, MD

Photo Credit: Cushing-Whitney Medical Library

Years active at Yale: 1923-1959

Dr. Jackson is being recognized as a pioneer in the treatment of infants and young children. She was a faculty member responsible for many of the advances in the care of infants and children throughout the world. She became well-known for her work in trying to humanize the delivery of services to children and families in hospitals and other human services institutions. She is best known for her success in establishing rooming-in for newborns so that they could be as close as possible to their mothers from the beginning. Throughout her life, Dr. Jackson was committed to providing the most sensitive care to parents and children.

The Edith B. Jackson Child Care Program remains as a living memorial to her lifetime commitment to the welfare of infants and children.

Credit: Official Biography from Century of Women Site

Gertrude VanWagenen, PhD

Dr. Gertrude VanWagenen, PhD

Photo Credit: Cushing-Whitney Medical Library

Years active at Yale: 1935-1975

Dr. Van Wagenen is being recognized for her excellence as a scientist. She started the Yale Primate Colony in the 1930s. Her atlas of the macaque ovary was the first to document the number of oocytes in the ovary. The "morning after" pill was developed using the monkeys in collaboration with Professor John Morris. Primate colonies throughout the United States are descended from the Yale colony and have been instrumental in the development of oral contraceptives.

Credit: Official Biography from Century of Women Site

Virginia Stuermer, MD

Photo by Harold Shapiro

Dr. Virginia Stuermer, MD

Years active at Yale: 1954-2003

Dr. Stuermer is being recognized as a pioneering physician in women’s health. She is associate clinical professor emerita of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences. A Nebraska native, Dr. Stuermer is the daughter of a prairie nurse who visited patients by horseback, she made up her mind to become a doctor at age 4 and trained in her home state as well as New Jersey and Iowa before joining Yale’s Ob/Gyn department in 1954. Despite such obstacles as no break room with beds for women physicians attending childbirths, she gained a sterling reputation at Yale. She later became medical director of Planned Parenthood for Connecticut. Years before the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, Dr. Stuermer joined a committee of New Haven providers and clergy that had decided to set up an outpatient abortion clinic. She offered to allow the clinic to be run out of her own private offices at 2 Church Street South. It was the city’s first freestanding abortion clinic, and quite illegal. Regardless, she practiced unchallenged, and even after other area clinics opened when abortion was legalized, she continued to provide the service until she retired at age 79.

Please visit the Yale Medicine Magazine article detailing Dr. Stuermer's role in protecting and promoting reproductive rights.

Credit: Official Biography from Century of Women Site

Mary Lake Polan, MD, PhD, MPH

Photo by Harold Shapiro

Dr. Mary Lake Polan, MD, PhD, MPH

Years active at Yale: YSM Class of 1975; 1970-1990

Dr. Polan is being recognized for her talent in combining rigorous scientific research with a humanistic clinical approach in a career that has spanned women's health, clinical medicine, medical education and governmental organizations. Dr. Polan earned a PhD in molecular biophysics and biochemistry in 1970, followed by a medical degree from YSM in 1975, then the first female graduate of our residency program, and she completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology. In 2001, she earned a master’s of public health degree in the Maternal and Child Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

She was at YSM until 1990, with intervals as a visiting professor in Iran in 1978 and China in 1986. In 1990, she moved to Stanford University School of Medicine, where she was chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and is the Katharine Dexter McCormick and Stanley McCormick Memorial Professor until 2005.

Dr. Polan has published more than 130 articles, chapters, and books. At Stanford her focus has been on reproductive endocrinology and infertility and on gene expression patterns in uterine fibroids. Recently, she organized a team of surgical volunteers to travel to Eritrea to help repair damage caused by prolonged labor during childbirth.

The National Institutes of Health appointed Dr. Polan co-chair of the Task Force on Opportunities for Research on Women's Health in 199. From 1995 to 1998, she was a member of the Director's Panel on Clinical Research and was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1993.

Credit: Official Biography from Century of Women Site

Century of Women OBGYN Faculty Listing