Celebrating Women Who Have Shaped Emory and Beyond

In 1987, the National Women’s History Project won a petition to designate March as Women’s History Month in an attempt to recognize and educate the nation on the substantial contribution and impact that women have had on the world. This March is particularly significant at Emory University because 2017 marks the centennial anniversary of admitting Women to be part of the Emory community. On March 18th, Emory’s center for women is holding an event, 100 years of Women of Excellence, to recognize the female members of the Emory community, who shattered glass ceilings; changing the university and the world through research and advocacy.

To celebrate and honor the courageous inquiry and societal contributions of Emory women past, present, and future; we would like to highlight five Emory Eagles who shaped their respective fields and paved the way for future female innovators and entrepreneurs.

  • Nanette Wenger: For over 50 years Nanette Wenger, MD, MACC, MACP, FAHA has dedicated her life to the study of cardiovascular disease, particularly its manifestation in women. In 1960 Wenger was appointed director of the cardiac clinics at Grady Hospital. She is most well-known for recognizing that heart disease did not solely impact men. Her research on the heart disease in women has been groundbreaking and thanks to her research it is now well known that heart disease is responsible for 38% of all female deaths and is the top killer of women in the U.S. Wenger is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on coronary disease in women and continues to advocate and participate in further research in cardiovascular disease in women and the elderly.

  • Evangeline T. Papageorge: When Evangeline T. Papageorge first came to Emory in 1928 on a $500 fellowship, no one expected that she would one day become one of the most respected and beloved professor and dean that the University ever employed. In 1929, Papageorge became the first full-time female faculty member on staff at the School of Medicine, where she taught clinical chemistry and biochemistry for 27 years. She then acted as the school’s first dean of students for 19 years before retiring in 1975. Papageorge was known for going out of her way to support Emory students’ academic endeavors. In an interview with Emory Magazine she remembered providing one student with a scholarship so that he could quit his weekend job, thereby giving him time to be a better student, husband and father. Papageorge passed away in 2002, but her excellence is still remembered toady through the Evangeline Papageorge Teaching Award, which is awarded annually to a faculty member deemed to be the best teacher at Emory’s Medical School just like Papageorge herself.

  • Luella Klein: If you were to look up pioneer in the dictionary then you might come across a photo of Luella Klein, MD, who shattered 1940s era gender stereotypes, being one of only two women in her medical school class. After earning her MD in 1949, Klein chose to pursue a specialty in obstetrics and gynecology, disregarding the suggestions to pursue a more gender appropriate career in dermatology. This decision launched the start of a career in gynecology and obstetrics that has now spanned over 68 years, most of which have been spent at Emory. During this time, she served as the first female chair of an Emory department and the first female president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). She has also won numerous prizes including her namesake honor, the ACOG’s Luella Klein Lifetime Achievement Award. Klein continues to champion issues of healthcare access for marginalized low income, minority, and LGBT communities, and be an active member in the Emory healthcare community.

  • Winton Elizabeth Gambrell: Winton Elizabeth Gambrell, MD, was the first female graduate of the Emory School of Medicine. In 1931 Gambrell earned her master’s degree in biology and subsequently was granted an instructional position in Emory’s medical school. In spite of this appointment, her gender was prohibiting her from enrolling as a medical student. Therefore, while teaching at Emory she took the train to Chicago every weekend so that she could pursue a PhD in bacteriology and parasitology at the University of Chicago. By 1937 she returned to Atlanta having earned her PhD and wrote to the president of Emory and applying to the Emory School of Medicine, writing that it was sinful for women to be excluded from the medical school. Finally, in 1943 she was excepted and by 1944 the all-male student rule was revoked.

  • Linda Cendales: In 1999 Linda Cendales, MD, helped organize the nation’s first hand transplant in Louisville, Kentucky and since then she has been a national leader in the of field limb transplants. Cendales is one of the only practicing physicians in the U.S. who is formally trained in both hand microsurgery and transplantation. She pioneered the Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation procedure which transplants limbs as a function body unit, including their skin, muscles, nerves, bones, and tendons. In 2007 Cendales joined the Emory faculty and was a founding member of the Emory University-Veterans Affairs Vascularized Composite Allograft (VCA) Program. Cendales is perhaps most well-known at Emory for a rare complete hand transplant procedure that she conducted in 2011. This procedure is one of the few successful hand transplants completed in the U.S. and made Emory one of only four institutions to have performed such a procedure. Cendales continues to shape the field of limb transplantation creating hope and new opportunities for future patients.

Present day Emory women have inherited a rich tradition of female entrepreneurs, pioneers, leaders, and boundary breakers. In the past 100 years, women of the Emory community have made significant contributions to the University and scientific development, from revealing the danger of cardiovascular disease in women to transforming the fields of limb transplantation to confounding traditional gender roles. Looking forward to the next 100 years, as Emory has just appointed its first female president, it is reasonable to assume that Emory women will continue to shape the University and the world.

View these related blog posts on women
Female Inventors Who Have Changed Our Lives – Part 1
Female Inventors Who Have Changed Our Lives – Part 2
Emory Female Inventors
Celebrating Women Who Have Shaped Emory and Beyond

Interviews with two female inventors
Barbara Rothbaum – Treating Anxiety Disorders: Balancing the Real World and the Virtual World
Harriett Robinson – From Academic Researcher to Startup Scientist: Leaving the Lab to Pursue Your Innovation