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    Women’s History Month: ‘Women Who Have Made Great Achievements in Medicine’

    Women’s History Month: ‘Women Who Have Made Great Achievements in Medicine’

    Courtesy Photo | U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Elsie Ott lands at Chabua, Upper Assam, India, after evacuating...... read more read more

    By Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Office of Command Communications

    This is the last in a series of articles celebrating Women’s History Month, observed during March, and saluting those women in military medicine who have connections with Walter Reed.

    This year’s Department of Defense (DOD) theme for observance is “Women Who Have Made Great Achievements.”

    At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), and its predecessors -- the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) and Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) -- there is no shortage of women in military medical history who have made great achievements in the advancement of health care and served as trailblazers for those in military health care today. Here are just a few.

    Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender

    Retired Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender served as chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) from September 1987 to August 1991. She was the first woman to receive her master's degree in military arts and sciences from the United States Army Command and General Staff College. She is also the first African American nurse corps officer to graduate from the United States Army War College. Prior to retiring in 1993, she served as commanding officer of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

    Adams taught at Walter Reed Army Medical Center starting in 1969, and then became the director of nursing at Fort George G. Meade in 1974 before attending the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, graduating in 1976.

    She then served in a number of leadership position before retiring and starting a consulting company, as well as publishing her memoir in 2001, “My Rise to the Stars: How a Sharecropper's Daughter Became an Army General.”

    Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown

    Brig. Gen. Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown served as a nurse and educator in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1983. In 1979, she became the first Black female general in the U.S. Army and the first Black chief of the United States Army Nurse Corps (ANC). She was also the director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing (WRAIN), which was located at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

    During her promotion to general, she is quoted as saying, "Race is an incidence of birth. I hope the criterion for selection did not include race but competence."

    After Johnson-Brown retired from the Army in 1983, she headed the American Nurses Association's government relations unit as well as directed the George Mason University's Center for Health Policy as an assistant professor and later as a professor.

    In 1990, during Operation Desert Storm, Johnson-Brown volunteered to work in the surgical suite at Fort Belvoir Army Community Hospital.
    She died on Aug. 5, 2011, at the age of 83.

    Brig. Gen. Anna Mae Hays

    Brig. Gen. Anna Mae Hays served as the 13th chief of the ANC and the first woman in the U.S. Armed Forces to wear the insignia of a brigadier general.

    A native of Buffalo, New York, she enrolled at Allentown General Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in 1941. The following year she joined the ANC and was assigned with the 20th Field Hospital in India in January 1943. She remained with the ANC after the war, and later graduated from the Nursing Service Administration Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
    She was appointed head nurse at the Walter Reed Hospital emergency room and served as the head nurse of the Radioisotope Clinic. During this time, she was selected as one of three private nurses for President Dwight D. Eisenhower after he became ill with ileitis.

    On May 15, 1970, President Richard Nixon appointed Hays to the rank of brigadier general and on June 11, 1970, she was promoted at a ceremony, officiated by the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. William C. Westmoreland and Secretary of the Army, Stanley R. Resor.

    As chief of the ANC, Hays is credited with making a number of recommendations regarding the treatment of women, many accepted into military policy, including not to automatically discharge officers for becoming pregnant and not to determine appointments to the ANC Reserve based on the age of the nurse’s dependents. In addition, regulations were changed to allow spouses of female service members to claim similar privileges to spouses of male service members.

    Hays passed away on Jan. 7, 2018, at the age of 97.

    Frances L. Willoughby

    Dr. Frances Willoughby, a psychiatrist, is recognized as the first female doctor commissioned in the United States Navy. She was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the early 1900s, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1927. She went on to earn her medical degree from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1938

    When World War II began, the U.S. government solicited young doctors to enlist, and Willoughby was one of them. As a woman, though, she was not permitted to join the regular forces and was assigned to the Naval Reserve. But in 1948, under the new Women's Armed Services Integration Act, she was commissioned a lieutenant commander, became the first female doctor in the Navy, and for the following year was the only woman doctor in the U.S. Armed Forces.

    She was stationed at the National Naval Medical Center and treated women from auxiliary services. She helped to administer the first electric shock treatment at the hospital, and went on to treat male patients as well and give neuropsychiatric examinations to Navy veterans in Washington, D.C.

    In 1950, she became the first woman with the permanent rank of commander and became staff psychiatrist at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, where she served until her retirement in 1964 at the rank of captain.

    In retirement from military service, she established a private practice. In 1981, she was awarded the Benjamin Rush Award, the nation's most prestigious award in psychiatry. She died on May 13, 1984, at the age of 78.

    Faye Abdellah

    Faye Glenn Abdellah impacted the careers of not only a number of Walter Reed nurses and health care providers, but others throughout medicine.

    A pioneer in nursing research, Abdellah was the first was the first nurse and woman to serve as the Deputy Surgeon General of the United States.
    Prior to that, she served on active duty during the Korean War, where she earned the rank of Navy rear admiral, making her the highest-ranked woman and nurse in the federal nursing services at the time.

    Her work changed the focus of nursing from disease-centered to patient-centered and The Patient Assessment of Care Evaluation developed by Abdellah is now the standard used in the United States. Her publications include Better Nursing Care Through Nursing Research and Patient-Centered Approaches to Nursing. She also developed educational materials in many areas of public health, including AIDS, hospice care, and drug addiction.

    In addition to those accomplishments, Abdellah spearheaded the formation of the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and she was the founder and first dean of the Graduate School of Nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).

    In 2000, Abdellah was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and during her acceptance speech, said, "We cannot wait for the world to change . . . Those of us with intelligence, purpose, and vision must take the lead and change the world . . . I promise never to rest until my work has been completed!”

    She died on Feb. 24, 2017, at the age of 97.

    2nd Lt. Elsie Ott

    Army 2nd Lt. Elsie S. Ott, a native of Smithtown, New York, attended Lenox Hill Hospital School of Nursing after completing high school. She joined the ANC in September 1941, was commissioned as a second lieutenant and had multiple stateside assignments prior to deployment to Karachi, India.

    While in India, Ott participated in the first air evacuation of patients originating in Karachi and concluding at then-Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. She had zero flying experience and had never flown before that mission.

    Ott’s plane left Karachi with five wounded personnel suffering from various injuries and illnesses Jan. 17, 1943. After stops along the way for refueling, the plane reached Washington nearly a week after its departure.

    Ott’s after-action review was critical in the planning of future air evacuations. Two months after her first air evacuation, she received the U.S. Air Medal, the first given to a woman in the U.S. Army for her role during the evacuation flight.

    Ott completed her military career in 1946 as a captain. She died in 2006.


    Date Taken: 03.25.2024
    Date Posted: 03.25.2024 13:25
    Story ID: 466976
    Location: US

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