Groundbreaking Women in Medicine at Cedars-Sinai
Mar 08, 2021 Katie Rosenblum
Like many professions, women in medicine have had to forge new trails and break down barriers from the very beginning. Now, women are still pushing the boundaries forward and shattering the glass ceiling.
Female physicians have a long, rich history at Cedars-Sinai. In 1906, Dr. Sarah Vasen, the first Jewish female doctor in Los Angeles, became the first paid employee of Kaspare Cohn Hospital when she was made superintendent of the facility that would eventually become Cedars-Sinai.
Dr. Esther Somerfeld-Ziskind was a pioneer in psychiatry and became the first female department head in the 1940s. In 1937, she and her husband created a lecture-discussion group at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, another predecessor of Cedars-Sinai, which may have been the first therapy support group in L.A. She also founded a free clinic at the hospital that lives on today as the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center.
There are many women following in these trailblazers' footsteps. In this first installment of a three-part series, we showcase some of the women making waves in medicine today.
Irwin and Sheila Allen Chair in Women’s Heart Research
Director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Smidt Heart Institute
Dr. Bairey Merz is a champion for women's heart disease and tireless advocate for women's heart health. She has held numerous positions since coming to Cedars-Sinai in 1985 and has been involved in more than 300 research studies. In her breakthrough research, Dr. Bairey Merz discovered that women, much more often than men, suffer heart disease not due to the clogging of major coronary arteries but because of coronary microvascular dysfunction—the dysfunction of small blood vessels. Her proudest professional accomplishment is developing the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Institute.
Helping Hand of Los Angeles—The Miriam Jacobs Chair in Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Vice Chair, Women's Healthcare Quality and Performance Improvement in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dr. Kimberly Gregory is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist who cares for high-risk pregnant patients. She grew up dreaming of a career in medicine and says she knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was 5 years old. In her role she wears many hats, including clinician, researcher and advocate for making childbirth safer for all women. As part of that work, she developed an algorithm for determining indications for cesarean delivery in women attempting vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and/or having an elective cesarean delivery. This important work led to a decrease in overall cesarean delivery rate.
She is currently leading the PCORI Childbirth Experience Survey designed to elicit important patient reported outcomes for childbirth and to predict satisfaction with the childbirth experience, as well as co-leading the "Cherished Futures" birth initiative, which will address racial inequities during pregnancy and childbirth.
Helping Hand of Los Angeles Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity
Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick always knew she was destined for a career in medicine. When she joined Cedars-Sinai in 2011, she became the institution's first female department chair. In her leadership role, she has recruited numerous new faculty members, started a family planning program, expanded the minimally invasive gynecologic surgery program and developed multiple collaborations with other departments including women's heart, GI, emergency department and the anesthesiology department. She is proud to be deeply involved in the national effort to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality rates and leads Cedars-Sinai's efforts to provide the highest quality care for all pregnant women, from low risk to the highest risk. She is also a vocal advocate for women's health research across all specialties.
"I love what I do and I am honored to be able to care for women with high-risk pregnancies," she says.
Women's Guild Distinguished Chair in Neurology
Chair, Department of Neurology
Dr. Nancy Sicotte is an internationally recognized leader in her field, with a focus on multiple sclerosis (MS). In her 11 years at Cedars-Sinai, she has created a multidisciplinary MS program that includes patient care, research and education. She has also been instrumental in building a robust program for residents and fellows. She takes pride in showing others in her field that women can hold leadership positions in academic medicine, and she hopes her work can inspire the next generation of physicians and researchers to continue advancing the care of MS patients.