2007

N. Lynn Eckhert, MD

N. Lynn Eckhert, MD
Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical Center

Elizabeth Blackwell; First Medical Doctor in the United States

The 2007 Golden lectureship was a play written by Dr. Lynn Eckhert and performed by Linda Gray Kelley entitled "Elizabeth Blackwell; First Medical Doctor in the United States".

Imagine trying to break into the medical field in the 1840’s. Everyone was against this strong bright woman becoming a doctor. She was rejected by medical schools, rejected by other doctors, rejected by patients, and, most notably, rejected by other women.

Elizabeth Blackwell was rejected by every medical school except one, Geneva College (now Hobart and William Smith College) in New York State. Ironically, the decision to accept her was made by the all male student body (although not unanimously). Dr. Blackwell graduated in 1849 as the top student in the class. She went on to found the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.

Women have also faced challenges breaking into the medical field well into the twentieth century. When Lynn Eckhert graduated from the University at Buffalo Medical School in 1970, she was only one of ten female graduates. She completed a pediatrics residency at Johns Hopkins (1975), and in 1980 Dr. Eckhert completed a Doctorate of Public Health ( Johns Hopkins).

Since 1985, Dr. Eckhert has been on the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. She was also the first female chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. In 2005, she joined the faculty at Harvard and currently directs the academic programs for Harvard Medical International.

Harvard Medical International has developed 50 medical education programs in 30 countries on five continents. A trailblazer herself, Dr. Eckhert has a sense for how much courage it must have taken for Elizabeth Blackwell to be the first female medical student.

Dr. Eckhert wrote A Lady Alone: Elizabeth Blackwell First Woman Doctor in America when she was reminded of this amazing woman during a visit to Hobart and William Smith College. She felt it was a story that needed retelling.

The play was brought to life by Linda Gray Kelley, and was first performed in January 2006 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. 

Ms. Kelley has performed in professional theatre for over 30 years. She now heads her own production company, and tours with her one-woman shows.