Photo Friday: Women of Our Time

National Portrait Gallery NPG  

On my lunch break from the NHIN forum this week, I stopped in to my favorite Smithsonian Museum to find a great exhibition, Women of Our Time. Photography isn’t allowed in special exhibitions, but some of the images are on the web. My three favorite ones (Lucille Ball, Virginia Apgar, and Rosalyn Yalow) are not there though.

An image of the photograph of Rosalyn Yalow is here on this web site – I like it because in her face is a look of confident accomplishment, without boundaries. Here is her story:

Rosalyn Yalow, born 1921. When physicist Rosalyn Yalow took a job in 1947 at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital to explore the potential of radioisotopes in diagnosing and treating illnesses, her first lab was a converted janitor’s closet, and she had to improvise some of her equipment. From that unpromising beginning came pathbreaking results. By the early 1950s she was working in partnership with Dr. Solomon Berson, and out of their investigations came RIA (radioimmunoassay), a procedure that proved invaluable in diagnosing and determining treatment for a wide range of diseases. In recognition of that achievement, Yalow becme the first woman to win the prestigious Albert Lasker Prize for Basic Medical Research in 1976, and a year later she was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine.

Yalow’s portrait was part of a series of images by photographer Arthur Leipzig depicting Jewish women-both famous and anonymous-from around the world.

When I entered medical school, my class makeup marked the end of an era – it was the last medical school class that had more men than women in it. The stories of these amazing women reinforce how far we have come, thanks to their leadership.

Ted Eytan, MD