Practice of Medicine


Celebrating Women’s Contributions to Medical Safety: Three Milestones in History 

By William Kanich, MD, JD 
MagMutual Executive Chairperson  

March is Women’s History Month, a time to honor the female physicians and scientists whose contributions have significantly advanced healthcare and made it safer for patients worldwide. From groundbreaking discoveries to innovative practices, their achievements have shaped the landscape of modern medicine. Here, we highlight three significant milestones achieved by women that have profoundly impacted medical safety. 

Dr. Virginia Apgar and the Apgar Score

In the mid-20th century, Dr. Virginia Apgar revolutionized the field of obstetrics with her groundbreaking invention of the Apgar Score. Born in 1909, Dr. Apgar was an American physician and anesthesiologist who dedicated her career to improving maternal and neonatal healthcare. 

The Apgar Score, introduced in 1952, is a simple and quick assessment tool used to evaluate the health of newborns immediately after birth. Based on five criteria — appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration — the score provides a standardized method for assessing the baby’s overall well-being and identifying any potential complications. 

Dr. Apgar’s innovation transformed obstetric care by enabling healthcare providers to promptly identify infants at risk and initiate appropriate interventions. By prioritizing early detection and intervention, the Apgar Score has significantly contributed to reducing neonatal mortality rates and improving outcomes for newborns worldwide. Dr. Apgar’s legacy continues to resonate in modern obstetrics, emphasizing the importance of timely assessment and intervention in ensuring the safety of both mothers and infants.i 


Dr. Patricia Bath and the invention of the Laserphaco Probe

Dr. Patricia Bath was a pioneering ophthalmologist and inventor whose contributions advanced the field of ophthalmology. Born in 1942, Dr. Bath took a special interest in combating preventable blindness in underserved populations and along the way became the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. 

In 1986, Dr. Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe, a device used for the treatment of cataracts. The probe utilizes laser technology to safely and precisely remove cataracts from the eye, offering a less invasive alternative to traditional surgical methods. By employing laser energy, the Laserphaco Probe minimized the risk of complications such as tissue damage and infection, while also improving surgical outcomes and recovery times. Dr. Bath’s invention not only transformed cataract surgery but also paved the way for the broader application of laser technology in ophthalmology and other medical specialties.ii  


Dr. Jennifer Doudna and the development of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology

Dr. Jennifer Doudna, an American biochemist born in 1964, has transformed the field of molecular biology and opened up new possibilities for treating genetic diseases. CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful tool that allows scientists to precisely edit DNA sequences within cells, with the potential to correct genetic mutations associated with various diseases, including cancer, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia. By enabling precise modifications to the genetic code, CRISPR-Cas9 holds promise for developing targeted therapies and personalized medicine approaches, ultimately improving patient outcomes and safety.  

Dr. Doudna’s groundbreaking work on CRISPR-Cas9, alongside collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, has garnered widespread recognition, including the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, cementing her legacy as one of the foremost innovators in molecular biology. Her achievements underscore the transformative impact of genome editing technologies in advancing medical science and addressing unmet healthcare needs.iii 

Throughout history women have not only advanced scientific knowledge but also transformed medical practice. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us honor their legacies and continue to recognize the invaluable role of women in shaping the future of healthcare. 





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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.