March is Women’s History Month and a new collection featuring the personal histories of the first women graduates of the Medical College of Georgia has been added to Scholarly Commons. This collection consists of audiotape transcriptions of interviews conducted by two female fourth-year MCG students, Lynda Lee Carlisle and Claire Hicks in October of 1984. The PDF files of the transcriptions are available to view and download from Scholarly Commons.

Carlisle and Hicks visited seven of the first women MCG graduates and asked them a series of questions regarding why they wanted to become doctors, what was their experience at MCG, and about their medical practice and family life.  The interviews were part of an independent study project for Carlisle and Hicks that was overseen and advised by Dr. Russell Moores, who was Associate Dean for Special Programs (Medicine) at the time.

*Dr. Loree Florence was the first woman to graduate from MCG in 1926. Unfortunately, Dr. Florence passed away in 1983, but Carlisle and Hicks interviewed the following women:

Dr. Emily Hammond Walker Wilson, Class of 1927

Dr. Leila Daughtry Denmark, Class of 1928

Dr. Mary Kate MacMillan Hires, Class of 1931

Dr. Katherine McMillan Hendry, Class of 1938

Dr. Katrine Rawls Hawkins, Class of 1940

Dr. Kathleen Byers-Lindsey, Class of 1943

Dr. Phyllis Johnson O’Neal, Class of 1943

Top row, l to r: Emily Hammond Walker Wilson (1927), Leila Daughtry Denmark (1928), Katrine Rawls Hawkins (1940)
Bottom row: Phyllis Johnson O’Neal and Kathleen Byers-Lindsey were both in the Class of 1943.

As new physicians in the 1930s and 1940s, these women faced the same challenges their male counterparts faced. The Great Depression was ongoing. The first sulfa drugs were not used until the late 1930s, and penicillin was not in use until the 1940s. As women physicians, they faced gender biases, whether as new medical graduates searching for a hospital to give them an internship or as private physicians by their patients. However, eventually each woman earned the trust and loyalty of her patients and colleagues due to her knowledge and skills as a physician.

Six of the seven female physicians that were interviewed practiced medicine in Georgia. One focused on pediatrics, while two were general practitioners who also served as public health doctors in their home counties. Three of these physicians were anesthetists while one retired from the Central State Hospital of Georgia. Dr. Leila Denmark worked with Eli Lily and Emory University in developing the first pertussis vaccine. Dr. Emily Wilson worked with Dr. Helen Taussing at Johns Hopkins with “blue babies”.

Each interview was recorded on a cassette tape that was transcribed. The tapes and copies of the transcriptions were given to the Historical Collections and Archives in 1985. The transcriptions were recently scanned, and information, such as missing names, was added the PDF files. Each transcription includes a brief bio of the physician with online references.

Drs. Carlisle and Hicks graduated from MCG in 1985. Dr. Hicks began in Family Medicine and later became a board certified HIV Specialist and Hospice and Palliative Medicine Specialist. Dr. Carlisle is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department.

For more historical information on the Medical College of Georgia, see the MCG Course Catalogs collection which contains names of faculty and students, subject class descriptions, and class schedules. For class photos and other historical images, see Medical College of Georgia – Class Photographs, Newton Building, and Old University Hospital photographs.

*A transcription of an interview with Dr. Florence conducted in 1978 is available in the Scholarly Commons collection Historical Audiotape Transcriptions