The modern era of women in surgery began with the “beardless
lad.” James Barry, MD—who was eventually discovered to be a
woman named Miranda Stewart posing as a man—performed
one of the first successful caesarean sections in 1820.
quality measures with incentive payments, while
penalizing health care providers who do not meet
12, 17 The Affordable Care Act includes
various incentive programs, including the Quality
Reporting and Hospital Value-Based Purchasing programs, where hospitals can earn incentive payments
for improved performance on 12 measures, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’
Surgical Care Improvement Program and the results
of the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers Survey.
Increasing role of women in surgery
Surgical organizations have continued to evolve to
meet the needs and challenges of surgical practice.
However, it is difficult to appreciate the present
stature of newer surgical organizations without
understanding their humble beginnings. Notably,
some of the organizations with the greatest growth
and development in the last half of the 20th century have offered an expanded role for women and
The modern era of women in surgery began
with the “beardless lad.” James Barry, MD—who
was eventually discovered to be a woman named
Miranda Stewart posing as a man—performed one
of the first successful caesarean sections in 1820.18 In
1847, Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, who wished to “treat
the tumors of women” and to “provide a gentler
hand,” was accepted as a medical student by Hobart
College (then Geneva Medical College) in Upstate
New York, and graduated with honors. In 1849, she
became the first woman to achieve a medical degree
in the U.S.
Thanks to strong mentors and trailblazing role
models, the number of women who are general
surgeons has consistently increased over the last
30 years—from 3. 6 percent in 1980 to 13. 6 percent
in 2007. In 1980, 10 percent of general surgery residents were women; by 2010, that number had grown
to 40 percent. At present, 15 women are chairs of
departments of surgery in the U.S. and Canada.