1875 – 1940
Rose Hirschler, the first woman dermatologist in the United States, the first woman to chair a department of dermatology and the only woman among the founders of the American Academy of Dermatology, was born in Butler, Indiana at a time when women could not vote and most medical societies discouraged interactions with women physicians.
Her route to medical school was as unconventional as the thought at the time of a woman becoming a dermatologist. She had no undergraduate degree but was instead certified as a masseuse by the Royal University of Uppsala in Sweden in 1896. She graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1899 and spent time studying dermatology with Unna in Germany. She came back to Philadelphia where she was mentored by Jay F. Shamberg, MD who published several papers with her. Her interests included syphilis and skin cancer and she is thought to be the first woman physician to recommend x-rays for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Dr. Hirschler was appointed chair of the department of dermatology at the Women’s Medical College in 1936. She died four years later from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Rose Hirschler was the second woman certified by the American Board of Dermatology (the first being Loretta Joy Cummins) and her memory lives on in an annual award given by the Women’s Dermatology Society to individuals who have enhanced the role of women in the specialty.
It should be noted that half of the dermatology workforce in the US today are women and 64% of the dermatology residency positions are filled by females.