The Women Before Me: Dedicated to the Women After
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CitationChen, Pamela. 2020. The Women Before Me: Dedicated to the Women After. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Medical School.
AbstractArtwork on-campus can be a powerful, unspoken representation of a school’s ethos—who belongs, who is valued, who is seen. As the medical student body continues to diversify, institutions must interrogate not only their faculty recruitment, promotion, and retention practices, but also the implicit messages of the portraits on their walls.
The first step to being seen as a leader is to be seen at all.
Part celebration and part critique, this oil portrait series and creative arts scholarly project highlights just a few out of the many accomplished alumnae of Harvard Medical School, beginning with HMS’s first co-educational class in 1949. These are women who represent multiple career paths and intersections of identity, who surmounted barrier after barrier in attaining their leadership positions in academic medicine, and who dedicated their careers to helping the vulnerable and voiceless. Taken together, their interviews emphasize the shared, structural, and invisible inequalities faced by women in medicine, and how far we still need to go.
In using the classic medium of oil portraiture, the artist then turned story into likeness. The vibrant, abstract backgrounds (subtly referencing bookshelves, fundoscopy, histology) provide a sense of color and optimism, and entrain the viewer’s focus on the internal psychology of each woman. Their resilience. Their setbacks. Their hard-won confidence.
There are so many others who belong alongside these women. There are so many who belong here. This is just the beginning.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37364963