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Honoring a Pioneer: Dr. Emma Willits

Emma W. Lab CoatEmma Willits is known as the first woman to head a surgery department in the United States. Born in 1869 in Macedon, New York, Emma was educated at Quaker schools and in 1892, she moved to Chicago to enroll at the Women's Medical College of Chicago. At that time, female surgeons were essentially unheard of, and Emma Willits was only the third woman in the United States to specialize in surgery. When she received her medical degree in 1896, Dr. Willits served her internship at the Women's Hospital of Chicago before moving to San Francisco. After completing her residency at the Children's Hospital in 1900, she opened her own private practice but maintained close ties to the hospital. Initially a member of the surgical staff of the Department of Pediatrics, Emma Willits later became the chief of the Department of Surgical Diseases of Children. Dr. Willits served as the head of the Department of General Surgery at the Children's Hospital from 1921 to 1934. We've chosen to honor Dr. Willits in our own Medelita way, and we'll soon be unveiling the Emma W., an exciting new addition to our line of Women's lab coats.