It was just a few months ago that Tamika Cross, MD, a Black woman, was allegedly denied the chance to help a fellow passenger on a Delta flight. Just two days after that — still in the year 2016 — we heard a very similar story from Ashley Denmark, another Black doctor who wasn't allowed to help a sick passenger.
It's infuriating, but unfortunately not surprising, that women of color have historically faced significant challenges in pursuing careers in science and medicine. But, as Dr. Cross and Dr. Denmark's stories show, many of those challenges persist: Black women still make up only 2% of doctors in the U.S., and fewer than 7% of people who received doctorate degrees in the U.S. in 2010 were Black women. When they do get the chance to make waves, their accomplishments are still less likely to be recognized.
That's why we're celebrating the contributions of those who pioneered, innovated, and created in spite of the discrimination they faced. Their work serves as a reminder of both the difficulties women of color have had to face to get those opportunities — and the amazing things they can do when they get 'em. For example, Jane Cooke Wright, MD, developed a non-surgical way to fight tumors. Mamie Phipps Clark, PhD, studied internalized messages of racism among Black children. Patricia Bath, MD, created an entirely new discipline of ophthalmology focused on public health.