The Story of Dr. Doris Bartuska: Sexism in Medicine during the 1950s to 1980s

 Digital history, From the collections  Comments Off on The Story of Dr. Doris Bartuska: Sexism in Medicine during the 1950s to 1980s
Aug 082017
 

-By Sabrina Kistler, Intern

Doris Bartuska, MD circa 1987.

As the granddaughter to a strong and influential woman physician, I never fully realized the fight women physicians underwent, and still face today, to bring society to a place of acceptance and equality for women in medicine. My grandmother, Dr. Doris Bartuska, worked throughout her career in endocrinology to best serve her patients, students, and ambitions, while dealing with sexism during the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. As a woman born in a small town, Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, she graduated with her medical degree from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1954 where she subsequently completed her internship and residency. She joined the WMC faculty in 1958 where she served as an Associate Dean for Curriculum, President of the Medical Staff, member of the Board of Directors, and President of the Alumni Association. In addition, Dr. Bartuska was the Director of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism while also serving as the Director of the Endocrine Fellowship Training Program. Dr. Bartuska also believed in the importance of organized medicine, as shown by her roles as President of the American Medical Women’s Association, Delegate to the American Medical Association, President of the Philadelphia Medical Society, and many more. Throughout her career as a physician, teacher, and leader, she has helped pave the way for female physicians in the world today through her struggles against sexism in the medical community.

Doris Bartuska, MD during rounds circa 1983.

While medicine has since made long strides in accepting women into its community, that wasn’t the case 50 years ago. During her medical school interviews, Dr. Bartuska was asked questions such as “do you plan on getting married?” and “are you going to have children?” questions not remotely related to one’s qualifications to become a doctor. While these questions may have seemed harmless, their answers could have drastic impact on whether you would be accepted or denied into their school. Even when she attended Woman’s Med, an all female medical school, Dr. Bartuska still noticed the discrimination of women from pregnant medical students being picked on to female faculty members receiving lower wages and lacking support from male faculty chairs. Dr. Bartuska faced additional adversity during her fellowship at Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia, an all male medical school at the time, where she was called mommy Bartuska by her male peers. Eventually through her skill with consultations, she was able prove her worth and loose the nickname, but the lack of respect and acceptance she faced at the beginning would never be forgotten.

Doris Bartuska, MD receiving the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching circa 1974

Even throughout her professional career in organized medicine, Dr. Bartuska underwent many setbacks due to her gender. During her campaign for President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, she was the target of a smear campaign due to the fact that she was a women. Her fellow male colleagues would call saying they heard negative things about her, most likely of a sexual nature, eventually causing her to drop out of the race. While this attack could have been based on other factors besides her gender, if she had been elected she would have been the first female president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, suggesting her gender was at least partly the cause for this attack. Dr. Bartuska also frequently found her name being presumptuously changed to Boris Bartuska, a male name, showing that women were still not traditionally considered to be physicians even in the 70s. Whether through mail or the introduction for her American Medical Association speech, this male name followed her throughout her career. While announcing her has Boris Bartuska during her AMA delegation speech may have been surprising and reflective of the adversity she still had yet to face, it worked out in her favor and eventually got her elected as a delegate to the AMA.  Through her time with the AMA, she had worked with her fellow female delegates to increase the number of full time female delegates and to establish and grow the original Women’s Caucus, now the Women Physicians Section. 

While a smart and capable physician, Dr. Bartuska faced a lot of adversity throughout her life as a doctor. During her time in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, she experienced sexism towards women in both the professional and medical community. Although her experiences may not have been as severe as others that came before her, it is evident that women still faced many struggles only a short time ago. It is clear there is still work to be done for having women fully represented and equalized in the medical and professional world but it is through women like my grandmother that have lead us closer to the finish line for equality.

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Dr. Doris Bartuska’s archive collection can be found at The Legacy Center at Drexel College of Medicine’s Queen Lane Campus. Please use the following links for more information on her collection and transcripts for her two oral histories completed in 1977 and 2003.

Doris Bartuska Papers Finding Aid

Interview with Doris Bartuska, M.D., April 4 & 5, 1977

Oral History Interview with Doris Bartuska, M.D., May 15, 2003

If you would like to research any of these topics or items, please contact archives@drexelmed.edu

Tuberculosis Strikes the Class of 1944

 Education and outreach, From the collections, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Tuberculosis Strikes the Class of 1944
Feb 022015
 

by John Anderies, our marvelous volunteer

Members of the class of 1944 pose with Dr. Kuhlenbeck at Somerton Airport, Philadelphia. Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy.

Following their first demanding year at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the women of the class of 1944 were rewarded with a trip to Somerton Airport in northeast Philadelphia. There, Professor of Anatomy Hartwig Kuhlenbeck, himself a licensed pilot, took the young women on flights in his Challenger biplane. A German immigrant who later served in the United States Army Medical Corps during WWII, Kuhlenbeck kept a detailed Tagbuch or Daybook for much of his life:

Donnerstag, Freitag und Sonnabend, den 29., 30., und 31. Mai fliege ich zu Somerton in meinem Challenger zahlreiche kurze Passagierfluge fur meine Studentinnen vom Woman’s Medical College. Ich habe zum Schluss dieses akademischen Jahres die Klasse des ersten Studienjahres – die “freshman class” – zu einem Fluge eingeladen und wir haben diese Klasse von 39 Studentinnen hierzu in drei Gruppen auf drei aufeinanderfolgende Tage verteilt – ich kann bei jedem Fluge je zwei Passagiere im vorderen Cockpit unterbringen. Auch meine Assistentinnen und die Laborantin sind bei dieser Veranstaltung einbegriffen.1

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 29th, 30th, and 31st of May, I’m flying many short passenger flights in my Challenger at Somerton for my students from the Woman’s Medical College. For the end of this academic year, I invited the first-year class (the “freshman class”) to take a flight, and we’ve divided this class of thirty-nine students into three groups on three successive days. I can accommodate two passengers in the front cockpit on each flight. My assistants and laboratory technician are also included in this event.

The class of 1944 was originally composed of 41 women. During this weekend of sailing through the skies, none would have expected the changes that were to come. According to an oral history interview conducted with one classmate, almost a third of the women had to drop out of medical school because they contracted tuberculosis. Most of these women did not make it back to finish their degrees. Sadly, at least two of the women died of the disease. Continue reading »


  1. Tagenbuchblaetter, 1938-1941. Hartwig Kuhlenbeck papers. Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy. 

Mary B. Dratman papers

 From the collections  Comments Off on Mary B. Dratman papers
Feb 072012
 
Dr. Dratman (far right) in the endocrinology lab at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1951.

The Legacy Center recently received a second donation of papers from Dr. Mary Bagan Dratman, adding to the bulk of her papers that were transferred to the Legacy Center in late 2010. Dr. Dratman graduated from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1945 and has conducted extensive research in endocrinology, specifically concerning the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. She is widely published and taught at both Woman’s Med and the University of Pennsylvania. We’re looking forward to conducting an oral history with Dr. Dratman in the spring.

We’re working on a preliminary inventory of the Dratman papers that will be available soon.

Moving Dr. Dratman’s papers from the basement of her home in Mt. Airy, 2010.