The School of Medicine’s new Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) celebrated its inaugural ceremony this week by honoring four women who left indelible marks on the history of the School and the Health Center.
“Our honorees grew up in an era that did not generally encourage women to pursue careers in medicine or science. They were vastly outnumbered during all aspects of their training – in lecture halls, in hospital rotations, at lab benches and all areas of their early careers. At every turn, they were met with attitudes that were not always welcoming or encouraging. But that did not stop them,” keynote speaker UConn President Susan Herbst said about Drs. Martha Lepow, Mary Jane Osborn, Naomi Rothfield and Audrey Worrell, of the first faculty.
“They worked hard, remained true to their calling, and all four became trail-blazers,” she added.
Herbst applauded the School of Medicine for starting its GWIMS chapter, part of a new national movement of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The UConn chapter is being led by Dr. Marja Hurley, an associate dean and director of Health Career Opportunity Programs. Over the last year, Hurley has brought together a steering committee that represents a range of voices in academic medicine – from full professors to mid-level and junior faculty, as well as administrative positions.
The GWIMS chapter has set goals such as celebrating and raising awareness about the achievements of women faculty within the School of Medicine; sharing resources about professional development; fostering mentorship initiatives to help junior faculty navigate choices in their careers; and advocating for gender equity and career advancement opportunities.
“One of our early goals was to find a way to publicly honor the first women faculty of the School of Medicine. We also wanted to start an annual symposium to raise awareness about issues that are unique to women in our fields,” Hurley said. The group has also posted a website which will serve as a community forum to share ideas, announce programs and awards, and more.
Two of the founding women faculty, Lepow and Rothfield, attended the Inaugural Ceremony and accepted their awards in person.
Health Center endocrinologist Dr. Pamela Taxel presented Rothfield her award.
“Dr. Naomi Rothfield has been an influential and well-respected member of the UConn community for more than four decades. Over the years she has become an internationally renowned rheumatologist who has helped countless numbers of patients,” she said.
“She is the ultimate patient advocate and a role model for all of our colleagues in the New England Musculoskeletal Institute,” Taxel added.
Lepow excelled in the fields of children’s health care and infectious diseases and founded the Health Center’s Department of Pediatrics. She is currently on the staff of Albany Medical Center, where she is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics.
Osborn, who was traveling and unable to attend the ceremony, is a leader in biochemistry and is the only School of Medicine faculty member to be elected to the prestigious National Academy of Science.
Worrell, who resides in New Mexico and was unable to attend the ceremony, was a leader in psychiatry and the burgeoning field of geriatric psychiatry.