03/24/2013 10:23 am ET

Important Women In Health And Medicine

This past week, in honor of Women's History Month, we released our picks for the 50 women who shaped America's health. And, as we said at the time, we knew we would miss some important medical, public health and advocacy visionaries. So we asked you, the readers, to help us fill in the gaps and we're grateful that you did! Here is a list of five more women who you thought deserved recognition:

Sister Elizabeth Kenny
Kenny, an Australian "bush nurse" (read: never licensed) is largely credited with founding the field of rehabilitative medicine. She began to explore the rehabilitative effects of muscle exercise on infant paralysis and later on patients suffering from polio.

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey
A reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration as a new sleeping aid made from thalidomide applied for approval, Kelsey withstood corporate pressure and the derision of colleagues for her refusal to accept what she considered to be incomplete safety testing. The drug was already approved in Germany and the U.K., among other places, when Kelsey refused its U.S. approval because of some troubling data on illnesses caused by repeated use of the drug. Soon, reports came from Europe of profound birth defects caused by the drug.

For her steadfast refusal in the face of so much pushback, President John F. Kennedy gave Kelsey the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service in 1962.

Nellie Bly
We're perhaps partial to early journalist, Elizabeth Jane Cochran (who went by the penname Nellie Bly) because of our shared profession, but we also admire her incredible bravery. In one of the first instances of undercover, investigative journalism, Bly purposefully behaved erratically until she was committed to a New York insane asylum. Once there, she reported on the appalling conditions facing the mentally ill, including beatings and forced meals of rotten food. Her careful, long-form reporting was the start of a number of reforms.

"I am happy to be able to state as a result of my visit to the asylum and the exposures consequent thereon, the City of New York has appropriated $1,000,000 more per annum then ever before for the care of the insane," wrote Bly. "So I have at least the satisfaction of knowing that the poor unfortunates will be the better cared for because of my work."

Madam C.J Walker
Sarah Breedlove, known by her professional name of Madam C.J. Walker, is best known for being the first female self-made millionaire, but the products that made her rich -- a series of hair treatments meant to prevent hair loss -- were also an advance in health. Her first product, a scalp treatment, was made of petrolatum and a medicinal sulfur that helped to prevent the scalp disease that caused hair loss in many American women, particularly African-American women, according to a University of California, Irvine report.

Betty Ford
Former First Lady Elizabeth Ann Bloomer Warren "Betty" Ford had been in the White House for less than one year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Her decision to go public with her ordeal was unusual, but she was certain it would help other women to screen themselves -- which it did. According to a Time magazine obituary, screening, reporting and early detection rates of the disease increased following Ford's public struggle, which breast cancer researchers refer to as "The Betty Ford Blip."

But cancer wasn't Ford's only personal health issue -- or the only health matter upon which she had lasting impact. The former First Lady had a lifelong struggle with dependency on alcohol and intermittent abuse of prescription drugs. She was one of the first public figures to speak openly about her addiction, helping to de-stigmatize the condition. She testified before congress in support of greater funding for addiction recovery programs and was one of the first public figures to publicly acknowledge a connection between drug addiction and HIV infection, according to a biography. She went on to found the Betty Ford Center in 1982 -- an important rehabilitation facility that was built to emphasize the unique needs of women who battle addiction.

Want more? Check out our original 50:



Women Who Changed Our Health