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Women Physician PIONEERS of the 1960s: Their Lives and Profession Over a Half Century | Archives Talk

Women Physician PIONEERS of the 1960s: Their Lives and Profession Over a Half Century | Archives Talk Online

Join Susan E. Detweiler, MD, for a presentation on her book, Women Physician PIONEERS of the 1960s: Their Lives and Profession Over a Half Century. “An arcane subject” was how Lillian K. Cartwright considered female medical students in 1965, a subject, if not exactly mysterious, at least heavy with the possibility of discovery.  At the time, women constituted 8% of medical students as a national average and 6.7% of practicing physicians in the United States.  Arcane subjects appealed to Cartwright. She selected female medical students as the topic for her PhD dissertation at the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley. She recruited the women in the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine’s four entering classes of 1964-1967, 58 women (10% of each class), to participate in her study. They took a large battery of psychological and aptitude tests and met in person with Cartwright for in-depth interviews on their motivations for a medical career, family backgrounds, and aspirations. Approximately 10 and 25 years later, Cartwright repeated the studies. The original cohort of women physicians again completed numerous psychological and personality tests and participated in interviews with her. No longitudinal study of a single group of female doctors such as this had ever been done. It became a landmark study of the era between 1965 and 1990 as the medical profession experienced a seismic shift. 

Detweiler broke her share of gender barriers in her four-decade career after graduating in the UCSF Class of 1971. She watched her female classmates do the same and witnessed the transformation of the profession into one in which over 50% of medical students in the United States are now female. With the help of Cartwright, she initiated a 50-year follow-up of the original cohort of women. No study in the history of medicine has ever documented the lives and careers of a single group of women physicians for half a century. The findings of Cartwright bore out as predictive of many aspects of their lives and careers, but the final study contained surprises that could not have been anticipated. The women of the study were born during World War II, entered medicine amid the turmoil of the 1960s and the Vietnam War, and forged careers into leadership within the male universe of American medicine. Their individual stories are testaments to their intellect, motivation, and perseverance. With the insight that only a member of the group could bring, Detweiler tells the stories these female physician pioneers who prevailed in a profession they loved and escorted from the model of the Nineteenth Century into that of the Twenty-first Century.  

As a member of the historic longitudinal study begun in the 1960s of female physicians educated at University of California, San Francisco, Susan E. Detweiler, MD brings to life the full story of these remarkable women in Women Physician PIONEERS of the 1960s: Their Lives and Profession Over a Half Century. A graduate of Wellesley College and UCSF, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Spalding University. Her over two dozen professional publications have appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Surgical Pathology, Ultrastructural Pathology, and other medical journals. Her nonmedical publications include essays in The Writer’s Chronicle, The Missouri Review (selected among Notable Essays of 2012 by The Best American Essays 2013), and on the web sites of the Seattle Opera and Physicians for Social Responsibility. She is a retired surgical pathologist who lives in Seattle, Washington.

This event is brought to you by the UCSF Library Archives & Special Collections.

Archives Talks are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, Mar 16 2022
12:00pm - 1:10pm
Time Zone:
Pacific Time - US & Canada (change)
This is an online event. Event URL will be sent via registration email.
  Archives and Special Collections     ZSFG  
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Event Organizer

Profile photo of Polina Ilieva
Polina Ilieva

Associate University Librarian for Collections

UCSF Archivist