Medical School Graduate Featured in American Medical Women's Association Exhibition

May 23, 2017

The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) has recently launched a new exhibition, Women Physicians in World War I. This feature highlights the various contributions of women physicians during this important period in U.S. History. Dr. Nellie O. Barsness-- one of Minnesota's first women physicians, and a University of Minnesota Medical School graduate, is featured in the exhibit. She received her degree from the Medical School in 1902, and went on to intern at Luther Hospital in St. Paul.

When the war began in 1917, women physicians were not allowed to enlist in the United States Medical Corps. But that wasn't enough to stop Dr. Barsness, so instead she joined the French Army. Here, she worked as an opthamologist in a hospital where gassed soldiers were treated. Upon the completion of her service, she was decorated by the French Minister for her hard work and dedication despite the hazardous conditions.

She returned home to St. Paul in late 1919, where she worked as a physician for the State Reformatory for Women at Shakopee. In addition to her other contributions, Dr. Barsness served as Regional Director for the Northwest Central region of AMWA and president of the Minnesota Branch. Through her labors and triumphs, younger generations of women physicians have been inspired. 

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