Women’s history celebrations started in 1978 in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women put on a week’s worth of events celebrating women’s history. Soon after, lobbyists, including the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women’s History Alliance), pushed for Women’s History Week to be observed nationally, and in 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th as Women’s History Week. Eventually, women’s history week became Women’s History Month.
This year Women’s History Month has been themed “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” to honor the frontline workers and caregivers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To this end, this month Advent Health Partners is highlighting a handful of extraordinary women who made a difference during the pandemic.
Anika Chebrolu is a 16-year-old science enthusiast. For the past few years, she’s studied pandemics looking for innovative treatments for influenza. In 2020, she and her mentor pivoted and started studying SARS-CoV-2. Chebrolu won the 3M Young Scientist Lab by finding “a molecule that can selectively bind to the Spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an attempt to find a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Jeanette Ives Erickson was the Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital before her retirement in 2017 after 20+ years. In April 2020, Erickson received a call requesting her help as COVID started to fill Massachusetts General Hospital. She jumped back in immediately, and over four days, she hired 1,000 staff members and developed a 1,000-bed field hospital inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for COVID patients. She has been recognized numerous times for her contributions to Boston throughout the pandemic and her passion for the field.
Danielle Pendergrass, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, opened Eastern Utah Women’s Health, a clinic to serve Utah’s underserved, rural population, in 2012. When the pandemic hit, she began offering telehealth services to increase access to her services across the region. She provided care to women 300+ miles away who may not have had the means to travel for affordable care. She has also lobbied and assisted in changing Utah’s Medicaid policy, allowing nurse practitioners to bill and be reimbursed by Medicaid at 100% of the physician’s rate. Pendergrass has been recognized for ensuring that women in rural Utah have access to safe and affordable healthcare.
The Old Dolls are a group of experienced nurses at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This group has worked together since the 80s and provided care during the AIDS crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group includes:
Raquel B. Collanto, BSN, RN, CCRN
Cynthia Pascalo, BSN, RN
Andrea Baer, RN
Valerie Gongaware, RN
Kathleen Hoke, RN
Phyllis “Peach” Donnan
Susan O’Connell, RN
These women have trained and mentored dozens of new nurses to provide care during the pandemic. Their legacy is so strong as a group that the Red Cross of Illinois awarded them the “Healthcare Heroes” award in 2021.
Ranjana Dwivedi was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, dreaming of becoming a doctor. She did, and after attaining her medical degree, she pledged to be an advocate for women in a country that sees increased amounts of gender segregation, especially when it comes to healthcare. Unfortunately, in 2019 Dwivedi was forced to flee her home country as the Taliban threatened her for her advocacy work. She was granted political asylum in the United States and immediately went to work fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. While she is not licensed to practice medicine in the US, she was able to get her medical assistant certificate quickly. She was named a supervisor at a COVID-19 testing site, offering COVID testing to the underserved population of Sacramento, CA. She served hundreds of disadvantaged people throughout the pandemic and is now working on getting her medical license to continue to help people.