Women have played a leading role in School of Medicine’s history

School of Medicine Dean Betty M. Drees, M.D., F.A.C.P., delivered the annual Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Outstanding Women in Medicine Lecture on Sept. 18.
School of Medicine Dean Betty M. Drees, M.D., F.A.C.P., delivered the annual Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Outstanding Women in Medicine Lecture on Sept. 18.

From the beginning more than 40 years ago, women have played major role in the history of the UMKC School of Medicine, said the School’s Dean, Betty Drees, M.D., on Sept. 18 as the speaker at the annual Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., Outstanding Women in Medicine Lecture.

Drees shared a quick review of how women from Sirridge, who served as a founding docent and as dean, to many of today’s graduates have had a hand in shaping the School into the successful academic medical institution it has become today during her lecture, “Women of the UMKC School of Medicine over four decades.”

“They were connectors. They were mavens. They were sales women,” Drees said. “And I think they are part of who we are today, and it’s not by accident that we are here today as we are today.”

Drees joined the School of Medicine as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and was appointed interim dean of the medical school in 2001. She was named the permanent dean in 2003 and will step down from that role on Oct. 1.

“I owe the opportunity I had here to Marjorie Sirridge,” Drees said.

Drees said she drew the inspiration for her lecture from Sirridge’s passion for story telling and for championing women in medicine.

Throughout her talk, Drees recognized many of the women who have made a notable impact on the School since its inception in 1971, such as Virginia Calkins, who served as the School’s first assistant dean for students and who played a large part in increasing the number of women students who enter the School to nearly 50 percent by 1979. Today, just less than half of the School’s 3,241 alumni are women.

“I believe women were very important in moving us from where were to where we are now,” Drees said.

She also shared how the number of women among the School’s faculty has grown to 47 percent of the current faculty and how many have taken on leadership roles including five current academic department chairs as well as women leading a number of School’s academic programs.

“We have women who are continuing to bring on new programs and be leaders in those programs,” Drees said.