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LACMA’s First Woman President: Rose Talbot Bullard, MD – 1903

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In celebration of Women Physicians Day, LACMA would like to take a moment to recognize Rose Talbot Bullard, MD who was the first woman president at LACMA. She was elected back in 1903.

Dr. Bullard was a well-respected physician and surgeon in Los Angeles. She was also an instructor in gynecology at the University of Southern California. At her death in 1915, her colleague Walter Lindley, MD wrote a glowing tribute to Dr. Bullard. He remarked on his sense of personal loss with her passing and said he “considered her as able a woman surgeon as any in the United States.” He didn’t comment on her standing among male surgeons.

The California State Journal of Medicine in March 1916 also paid tribute to Dr. Bullard.

“Dr. Bullard was fitted by training and temperament for her chosen work. A close observer, endowed with good judgment, she was painstaking and gentle in her work, possessing the confidence of her patients, the respect of the profession, and the love of every one who knew her. Though quiet in word and action, she possessed the courage of her convictions and the initiative to independently carry out her decisions. The medical profession, and more especially the women physician of California have met with a genuine loss in the death of Dr. Rose Bullard.”

Dr. Bullard and her sister, Dr. Lula Talbot, were the subject of an LA Times article in 2000. Reporter Cecilia Rasmussen wrote,

“A specialist in gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics, Bullard was one of the first physicians in Los Angeles to use spinal anesthesia in obstetrics. Her surgical skills were so well recognized that she was elected a fellow–one of only eight women–of the newly formed American College of Surgeons.

It was an era in which the practice of medicine was considered more an art than a science, and a female doctor could win grudging acceptance as a peer–as long as she confined her practice to suitable patients: other women and their children…

She succeeded her husband [Frank Bullard, MD] as president of the county medical association in 1902–winning with 14 votes to her two male opponents’ combined total of 13. Under her leadership, the group’s members generated more medical and scientific papers, and membership increased to 200 for the first time.”

LACMA wouldn’t have another woman president until 1992 when Marie Kuffner, MD was elected. Ilena Blicker, MD was the next woman elected to the position in 2000. Marcy Zwelling-Aarnot held the office in 2003.

Women Physicians Day seems a fitting time to honor Dr. Bullard, the other women physicians who have demonstrated leadership within the organization and to encourage young women physicians, residents and students to join LACMA with an eye to filling leadership roles.

The LACMA Women Physician’s Action Committee is an engaged, vital committee at LACMA. To learn more about their work in leadership development, mentorship and increasing membership among women physicians in LACMA, you can go to their web page by clicking here.

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