08:44 AM

Students explore heroic women who revolutionized medicine

Professor of Nursing Dr. Kristina Leyden teamed up with Assistant Professor of History Francesca Guerri to teach “Exploring Heroic Women Who Revolutionized Medicine” to first-year students interested in healthcare, medicine and history. For one hour, once a week, students enjoyed this Freshmen Symposium optional, one-credit course.

During class, the faculty duo led the students through a historical exploration of heroic women across the ages who were instrumental in how medicine is practiced today. During class time, students enjoyed creating tinctures, rubs, salves and other herbal therapies. The recipes they made in class were some therapies used by historical figures, including Hildegard of Bingen, Trota of Solerno, Louise Bourgeois and Gertrude Elion.

  • Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179): A true pioneer known as a physician, philosopher, astronomer, musician, doctor of the church, mystic and saint, Hildegard made an extraordinary contribution to the field of medicine. Her extensive medical writings provide practical insights into using plants and minerals to promote human well-being, leaving a lasting impact on the medical community of her era. 
  • Trota of Solerno (12th century):  A groundbreaking figure in gynecology, she influenced medical history and women's healthcare. Recognized as the world's first gynecologist, Trota emerged as one of the most celebrated physicians of her era, with her early life and origins shrouded in mystery. Trota left a lasting mark on women's healthcare by making significant contributions in obstetrics, gynecology, cosmetics and dermatology.
  • Louise Bourgeois (1563-1636): Trailblazing the way for the modern profession of nurse-midwifery, Bourgeois became the royal midwife to King Henry IV of France and his wife, Marie de Medici. She made significant contributions to obstetrics through her writings. 
  • Gertrude Elion (1918-1999): Her innovative approach to medical exploration resulted in groundbreaking achievements. She developed the first drug to combat leukemia and revolutionized many treatments that continue today. Elion won the Nobel Prize.

Stepping outside the classroom near Crooker Centers, students fired up burners to melt beeswax, coconut oil, and cinnamon to make a salve. During these sessions, students tried their hand at creating the following:

· oregano oil, discovered and created by Hildegard of Bingen, an antiseptic which also has antifungal properties and boosts the immune system 

· lavender oil, often used in labor and delivery to aid relaxation for the woman in labor, it is also antibacterial and can offer topical pain relief

· yarrow tincture, used to help bleeding in obstetrics and gynecological cases as an antiseptic; and helps with bruising and varicose veins

· yarrow powder, a wonderful first-aid remedy as it stops bleeding and is antiseptic and promotes healing

· cinnamon salve, very helpful in gynecological conditions as an antifungal; It is also a wonderful bug repellant and shoe deodorizer due to fungus found in shoes!

· garlic/honey infusion, boosts immunity immensely which is useful for cancer patients and is excellent for relief from a sore throat and acts as a cough suppressant

“For medical and nursing students, this type of discussion and knowledge is neither spoken nor taught in detail in Western curriculum,” Leyden said. “Dr. Guerri and I had fun sharing our knowledge with the students.”