It has to be said that it was so refreshing to see Tamia Porter become Vanderbilt’s first Black woman resident in neurosurgery. We—Black women—are such a rarity in certain fields that it’s always cause for celebration when someone breaks a new barrier. What an exciting time to turn our attention to the next generation of women who will take up the reigns and become leaders in science to pave the way for new technologies, and advancements in medicine and do the hard work to change lives.
As with so many advances in a variety of industries made famous by Black women—Katherine Johnson (Apollo moon landing), Dr. Mae Jemison (Astronaut), Madam C.J. Walker (Beauty), Cheryl McKissak Daniel (Construction), and Edwina Justus (Railroad engineer)—we have been superior representatives and a force to reckon with in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Hence, the point of this writing…to celebrate a few of the amazing Black women in STEM that make up 14.58% of the total female population in science. These women you are about to read about both paved the way and are currently breaking through walls of resistance for our future girls. As challenging as it may be, representation indeed matters. With the women mentioned below and hundreds of others we may never know about, Black women and girls have many to look to for guidance on ways to change lives…and the world.
Dr. Alexa Canady was the first Black woman to become a neurosurgeon. She is a woman of several firsts, including the first to be American Board of Neurological Surgery certified and Chief of Neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
Dr. Patricia Bath was the first Black female ophthalmology resident to finish the program in 1983. She is also the first to receive a medical patent for inventing the device to treat cataracts and restore eyesight. Alicia Ball was the first to develop a treatment for Hansen’s disease (what we call leprosy) that was a success and allowed many castaways in the 1900s to return to a normal life.
Aisha Bowe received her degree in aerospace engineering and worked at NASA as a mission engineer. Aprille Ericsson-Jackson was the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering as well as a Ph.D. in engineering from NASA.
In Earth Science
Ashanti Johnson is the first Black female chemical oceanographer. She holds a Ph.D. in the same field and works to help historically disadvantaged kids pursue degrees in earth and environmental sciences.
In Veterinary Medicine
Dr. Jane Hinton was one of the first Black women to open her own veterinary practice. It was located in Massachusetts. Dr. Ruth Smith Lloyd was first to receive a doctorate in Anatomy. Her research in monkey anatomy is still used as a foundation in animal anatomy.
These eight Black women have paved the way or are currently doing the work to be excellent representatives for future generations to look to for inspiration. Our young girls are getting smarter by the generation. It is exciting to imagine what our youth will glean and improve upon using the examples of women that came before.
*References: Association for Women in Science
Article Written by: Kim Cross | Kim is the owner and Happy Skin Formulator at Zhi Bath & Body, a natural skincare shop based in Charlotte, NC. She has been in the beauty industry for the last 30 years as a stylist and skincare formulator. Having dealt with severe psoriasis for over 20 years, she knows the hardship of finding products that are gentle, good for the skin, and smell amazing. 16 years of research and formulating has resulted in a goat milk skincare and soy candle line that is simply amazing. Helping you love you…naturally.