Deborah Levine, PhD
Acknowledgment: The author thanks the Providence College School of Professional Studies Summer Scholars Program for providing funding for this research. She also thanks attendees of the American Association for the History of Medicine annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2013 and the 2013 Pennsylvania Hospital History of Women's Health Conference for helpful early comments. The author also thanks Katherine Stevens and the members of the library staff at the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe Institute for providing essential support for research. Her deepest thanks are due to Jennifer Lambe, Robert Hackey, Deborah Weinstein, and the editors and 3 anonymous reviewers at Annals of Internal Medicine for their generous, thoughtful suggestions. Finally, thanks and respect to Alison Spatz Levine for her insider perspective on medical education, residency, and pediatrics.
Disclosures: The author has disclosed no conflicts of interest. Her form can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M16-1244.
Corresponding Author: Deborah Levine, PhD, Program in Health Policy and Management, Providence College, 1 Cunningham Square, Providence, RI 02918; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current Author Addresses: Dr. Levine: Program in Health Policy and Management, Providence College, 1 Cunningham Square, Providence, RI 02918.
Author Contributions: Conception and design: D. Levine.
Analysis and interpretation of the data: D. Levine.
Drafting of the article: D. Levine.
Critical revision for important intellectual content: D. Levine.
Final approval of the article: D. Levine.
Obtaining of funding: D. Levine.
Administrative, technical, or logistic support: D. Levine.
Collection and assembly of data: D. Levine.
“We are up to our eyes in work. I have about 32 children tonight all with some contagious disease, if not two, and several very sick!” wrote Dr. Martha May Eliot to her parents in 1920, adding, “The hospital is full almost to overflowing and still they come.” Eliot, who would go on to become an influential American pediatrician and public health authority, as well as the head of the Federal Children's Bureau, wrote her parents frequently during the course of her education at Radcliffe College (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania), Johns Hopkins Medical School (Baltimore, Maryland), Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts), St. Louis Children's Hospital (St. Louis, Missouri), and Yale University Medical School (New Haven, Connecticut). Through these letters, she detailed her experience as a woman professional at elite institutions during a key transformative period in U.S. medicine. This article uses Eliot's collection of correspondence to shed light on physicians' experience of the increasingly rigorous training, testing, and licensing processes introduced in top medical schools and to offer insights into the history of women's medical education and experience in building careers as academic professionals during that time. Eliot's letters also illustrate how the newer, higher standards for medical graduates and postgraduates may have hastened—rather than hindered—the progress of some elite women in the medical profession. Today's physicians and medical educators, as well as those completing graduate training, will find much to draw on from the experience revealed by this rich epistolary archive.
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Levine D. “I Haven't Time to Write”: Martha May Eliot and American Medical Education Reform. Ann Intern Med. 2016;165:723-728. doi: 10.7326/M16-1244
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2016;165(10):723-728.
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