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Women in History

Mothers of Invention - Medical Saviors


Medical researcher with microscope

Women in History - Medical researcher with microscope

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Women care and women care as inventors. Many female inventors have turned their skills on finding ways to save lives.

Women in History - Invention of Nystatin

As researchers for the New York Department of Health, Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Brown combined their efforts to develop the anti-fungal antibiotic drug Nystatin. The drug, patented in 1957 was used to cure many disfiguring, disabling fungal infections as well as to balance the effect of many antibacterial drugs. In addition to human ailments, the drug has been used to treat such problems as Dutch Elm's disease and to restore water-damaged artwork from the effects of mold.

The two scientists donated the royalties from their invention, over $13 million dollars, to the nonprofit Research Corporation for the advancement of academic scientific study. Hazen and Brown were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994.

Women in History - Fighting Disease

Gertrude Elion patented the leukemia-fighting drug 6-mercaptopurine in 1954 and has made a number of significant contributions to the medical field. Dr. Elion's research led to the development of Imuran, a drug that aids the body in accepting transplanted organs, and Zovirax, a drug used to fight herpes. Including 6-mercaptopurine, Elion's name is attached to some 45 patents. In 1988 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine with George Hitchings and Sir James Black. In retirement, Dr. Elion, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, continues to be an advocate for medical and scientific advancement.

Women in History - Stem Cell Research

Ann Tsukamoto is co-patenter of a process to isolate the human stem cell; the patent for this process was awarded in 1991. Stem cells are located in bone marrow and serve as the foundation for the growth of red and white blood cells. Understanding how stem cells grow or how they might be artificially reproduced is vital to cancer research. Tsukamoto's work has led to great advancements in comprehending the blood systems of cancer patients and may one day lead to a cure for the disease. She is currently directing further research in the areas of stem cell growth and cellular biology.

Women in History - Patient Comfort

Betty Rozier and Lisa Vallino, a mother and daughter team, invented an intravenous catheter shield to make the use of IVs in hospitals safer and easier. The computer-mouse shaped, polyethylene shield covers the site on a patient where an intravenous needle has been inserted. The "IV House" prevents the needle from being accidentally dislodged and minimizes its exposure to patient tampering. Rozier and Vallino received their patent in 1993.

After fighting breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy in 1970, Ruth Handler, one of the creators of the Barbie Doll, surveyed the market for a suitable prosthetic breast. Disappointed in the options available, she set about designing a replacement breast that was more similar to a natural one. In 1975, Handler received a patent for Nearly Me, a prosthesis made of material close in weight and density to natural breasts.

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