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Who Was Dr. Esther Park? Google Doodle Celebrates

by Google Doodle

A century ago in Korea, it was considered improper for female patients to be examined by male doctors; as a result, women did not have access to proper medical care. That changed with the arrival of Dr. Esther Park, the first female doctor of Western medicine in Korea.

Park was born into a poor family as the youngest of four daughters in 1879, in Jeong-dong, Seoul. She was a gifted student at Ewha School, the first modern school for Korean women, particularly in English studies. As a result, she was introduced as an interpreter to an American doctor, Rosetta Sherwood Hall, involved in medical service missions in Korea. Although not initially interested in medicine, she became inspired after observing Hall flawlessly operate on a patient with a harelip.

After moving to Liberty, New York to study English, Park enrolled at a nursing school for one year, and in 1896, entered the Baltimore Women’s Medical School, the forerunner of Johns Hopkins Medical School. She became the first Korean woman to graduate from BWMS and receive a doctor’s degree.

Returning to Korea, Park began caring for female patients at Bogu Yeogwan, Korea’s first hospital for women. She would travel across Hwanghae and Pyongan Provinces to provide free care to women, caring for an average of over 5,000 patients per year for 10 years!

For her service, Dr. Park received a silver medal from Emperor Gojong. In 2006, she was also honored at the Korea Science and Technology Hall of Fame.

Today, we celebrate Dr. Park’s 142nd birthday for her trailblazing contribution to medicine and women’s empowerment.

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