The earliest records of human health care suggest that it was a female dominated activity, and women were traditional healers in many societies through much of the past 2,000 years. Over the past four centuries, however, the modern medical profession emerged and gradually edged women out. It is only for a few decades that women have been able to find a place in this system and to become respected physicians themselves. Now, some are taking it further, looking not just at treating the sick but also at developing new and better systems through which to do so, bringing care to those who need it most and changing the way we think about medicine. These are four of the women at the forefront.
Founder and NYC Managing Director of digital health company Rock Health, Halle Tecco came from a background in IT to become a leading player in the publication of health reports and to support other entrepreneurs engaged with digital health startups. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she sees herself as a matchmaker, bringing together different organizations and individuals in the sector to help them reach their full potential.
Nigerian American Jennifer Atiku was called to bar recently but her new found success as a barrister has done nothing to distract her from her first love, medicine. A director of the Gede Foundation, she works to bring mental health care to people suffering from HIV and AIDS in African countries where the stigma around these diseases is considerable, and she also works to challenge that stigma so that they can better integrate into society to receive day-to-day support.
Working on a global basis, Nina Nashif operates Healthbox, which engages with startups and aims to advance the speed of innovation within the sector. She focuses on systems designed to keep costs low so that they can be useful even in poor countries, and she also aims to support projects that help patients to take better care of their own health. This has the secondary effect of helping smaller companies to engage at the top level, thus encouraging creativity.
The founder and CEO of Epic Systems, Judy Faulkner works in the electronic health records sector with some of the biggest companies in the business – everyone from the Cleveland Clinic to Johns Hopkins. She started out in math and computer science and is now a billionaire. She still loves systems and is very hands-on about designing tech that is flexible in fitting in with other devices, and also recognizes patients as individuals with complex and varying needs.
In the early years of the 21st century, there are still a great many challenges out there around health care, and women’s health care in particular, so having women working at the top level to improve technologies and services could not be more important. These inspiring figures should also serve as role models for young girls thinking about future careers, making it clear that women can be big achievers.