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UCI School of Medicine Recognizes Women's History Month: Susan La Fleche, MD

Posted: 2024-03-25

Source: UCI School of Medicine
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Gender equity in the United States has always been an intersectional movement, necessarily incorporating gender with other identities including but not limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship and socioeconomic status.

These intersections were reflected through the life and work of Susan La Fleche, MD, the first Native person to earn a medical degree in the United States. In 1889, Dr. La Fleche obtained her medical degree from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the first medical school in the United States for women.

However, as a member of the Omaha Tribe, she was not considered an American citizen. She returned to the Omaha reservation as a doctor, but was quickly tasked with serving multiple roles – acting as a de facto lawyer, accountant, priest and political liaison in order to address the holistic health and wellbeing needs of the Omaha people.

Over the course of her life, she advocated for public hygiene, the prohibition of liquor sales on the reservation and solicited donations to build the first modern hospital in Walthill, Nebraska. Her dedication serves as exemplary model of the importance of infusing medical care with cultural humility and communal wellbeing.

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