Between 1889 and 1926, Mayo Clinic had appointed 11 women physicians to the staff. By 1935 only one remained. No more were added until 1948.
Today Mayo Clinic has 9,555 living female alumni (physicians and scientists) around the world. Join us in celebrating the early women physicians and scientists who blazed trails at Mayo Clinic.
Gertrude Booker Granger, M.D.
Dr. Granger was the third physician and first woman to join the Mayo brothers in practice in 1898. She assumed full responsibility for eye exams and refractions and was the first Mayo physician to specialize. In 1912, she became Rochester’s deputy director of public health with Charles H. Mayo, M.D. (Dr. Charlie), as director. In the interest of public health, she organized a garbage-collection system and helped pass an ordinance requiring inspection in the milk production industry.
Isabella Herb, M.D.
Dr. Herb arrived at Mayo Clinic in 1899 from Chicago to be Dr. Charlie’s anesthetist and a pathologist. She developed a centralized pathology department. In 1904, she left Mayo Clinic to practice and engage in bacteriology research in Chicago. Later, she became the 10th president of the American Association of Anesthetists.
Leda Stacy, M.D.
A Rochester native, in 1908 Dr. Stacy was the third woman to join the Mayo practice. Initially she was an anesthesiologist, but then joined the section of general internal medicine and studied radium treatment on the East Coast at the request of William J. Mayo, M.D. (Dr. Will). Dr. Stacy became head of Mayo’s section of radium therapy where she led the intrauterine use of radium and became an international expert on radium therapy. In 1917, she became head of a section focused on gynecology; this section assured that women requesting women physicians would be accommodated. In 1935, she left Mayo Clinic to join a family planning clinic in New York. There she made significant contributions to hormone research.
Georgine Luden, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Luden was Dutch-born and German-educated. She came to Mayo Clinic in 1914 and received a Ph.D. at University of Minnesota in 1920. She ran a lab and incorporated epidemiology into research. She marked a Rochester map according to the amount of coal pollution produced and the number of cancer deaths in each neighborhood to investigate potential correlations between the sulfur content of soft coal and cancer. In 1929, she left Mayo Clinic and moved to British Columbia, becoming head of pathology at a hospital there.
Della Drips, M.D.
Dr. Drips was a member of first class of the University of Minnesota - Mayo Clinic collaboration that allowed trainees completing clinical rotations at Mayo Clinic to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees at the university. She received a master’s degree in pathology and a medical degree several years later. While training, she worked in an experimental laboratory at Mayo Clinic and focused on developing sound practices for blood transfusion. She joined the medical staff and saw female patients. She was considered an expert in gynecologic endocrinology.
Winifred Ashby, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Ashby came to Mayo Clinic from England in 1917 as an immunology fellow. She developed the first technique to measure the lifespan of red blood cells, contributing important findings including a basis for using blood transfusions to manage chronic anemia. In 1921, she received a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and was appointed to Mayo Clinic staff in the department of experimental bacteriology and experimental medicine. In 1924, she left Mayo Clinic to manage serology and microbiology laboratories in Washington, D.C. In the 1940s, her studies of carbonic anhydrase activity in the central nervous system were internationally recognized.
This article was originally published in Alumni Magazine, Issue 1, 2021.