March is designated as Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we are highlighting women who have made history here at the College of Medicine. Their contributions are diverse, spanning significant research breakthroughs to exemplary patient care and education. 

Note: This list is not exhaustive, but rather a snapshot of what is wildly possible at the College of Medicine. 

Mary Elizabeth McMichael, MD, was one of 40 members of the inaugural class of the UK College of Medicine in 1960. Most notably, she was the only woman in the class and the first woman to graduate from the University of Kentucky with a medical doctorate. Following her training at UK, Dr. McMichael completed a pediatrics residency at St. Luke Hospital (now Mount Sinai Morningside) in New York City, where she was noted as being the chief resident by June of 1966. Dr. McMichael returned to Kentucky in the early 1970s, settling in unincorporated Turkey Creek and working at Highlands Clinic, where she remained until the fall of 1977, at which point a “lingering illness” spurred her retirement. She passed away in July 1978 at the age of 51. 

• Ardis D. Hoven, MD, graduated from UK College of Medicine in 1970. Dr. Hoven is an internal medicine and infectious disease specialist and has been dedicated to treating patients with AIDS and HIV since the early 1980s. She served as president of the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) from 1993-1994. In 2013, Dr. Hoven was tapped to serve as the 168th president of the American Medical Association (AMA), becoming the third woman to hold the esteemed title. Dr. Hoven was inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2015.  

• Ouida Tisdall, MD, a native of Somerset, Ky., was one of just five women in the UK College of Medicine graduating class of 1970. Dr. Tisdall was also the first female physician hired at the Lexington Clinic. Trained as a radiologist, she joined the clinic staff in 1974 and is credited with starting its mammography screening program shortly thereafter.  

• Jacqueline “Jackie” A. Noonan, MD, was the first pediatric cardiologist at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. During her time there, she observed a rare heart defect in children. She began publishing papers about this congenital heart condition in 1963, two years after joining the UK College of Medicine. This condition was ultimately named Noonan syndrome in recognition of her efforts. For nearly five decades, Noonan was a fixture at the UK College of Medicine, practicing pediatric cardiology and critical care. 

• Nirmala Desai, MD, joined the department of pediatrics in 1972 after completing her pediatric residency at Boston Children’s Hospital and a neonatology fellowship at Boston Hospital for Women (now known as Brigham and Women’s Hospital). Within her first year at UK, Dr. Desai established a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) within the department of pediatrics. In a 2018 interview, Dr. Desai shared "I fought hard to get the bare minimum, from baby-sized bag valve masks to a radiant warmer. We didn't have enough beds for the babies; they were put two to a bed." The NICU was first renovated in 1974, and again in 1981 and 2018, each time adding additional beds to treat more patients and to provide increased access to care for Kentucky families in need.

 • Susan Smyth, MD, PhD, was a leader in translational science, having served as senior associate director for the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), and director of its Graduate and Postgraduate Student Development programs for several years. Dr. Smyth also served as director of the Gill Heart and Vascular Institute, division chief for cardiovascular medicine, and the Jeff Gill Professor of Cardiology in the department of internal medicine while at UK. She held joint appointments in behavioral science, pharmacology and nutritional sciences, and physiology as well. For 11 years, Dr. Smyth oversaw the College’s combined MD/PhD program, was an attending physician at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and was heavily involved with research efforts at the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center. In 2021, she was named executive vice chancellor and dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 

Lois Nora, MD, JD, arrived in Lexington, Ky. in 1995 as the associate dean of academic affairs for the UK College of Medicine. During that time, she also taught several neurology and law classes. Following her departure from UK, Dr. Nora served as a professor of neurology and family and community medicine, president emeritus, and dean of medicine emeritus at Northeast Ohio Medical University. Dr. Nora is also the former president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Medical Specialties. The daughter of a physician, Dr. Nora was among four of eight children in her family to earn a medical degree. She received her medical degree from Rush Medical College, a law degree and certificate in clinical medical ethics from the University of Chicago, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Kentucky.

• Anita Fernander, PhD, served as an associate professor of behavioral sciences at the UK College of Medicine for 19 years. During that time, Dr. Fernander worked to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the college. She founded Black Boys and Men in Medicine (BBAMM), a pathway program designed to engage young Black and African American men, offering early exposure to medicine and science concepts. Dr. Fernander was also among the founding faculty of the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) before she accepted the roles of inaugural chief officer for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and interim department chair and professor in the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Department of Population Health. Dr. Fernander currently serves as the executive diversity officer and professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center School of Medicine.   

• Daret St. Clair, PhD, is a distinguished researcher known for her outstanding contributions to cancer research. Her illustrious career at Markey Cancer Center (MCC) has been marked by groundbreaking research and advancement of the center's basic science programs. Throughout her career, Dr. St. Clair has demonstrated exceptional dedication and leadership – serving as associate director for basic research at MCC and co-director of the Center for Cancer and Metabolism. In 2018, Dr. St. Clair was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine. 

• M. Elizabeth Oates, MD, serves as the Rosenbaum Endowed Chair in the UK College of Medicine Department of Radiology. In 2019, Dr. Oates received the Presidential Education Award from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging for her significant contributions to training and education in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging. In 2015, at the request of then-dean Frederick de Beer, MD, Dr. Oates established the Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS) organization, a chapter of the larger Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS). Dr. Oates served as WIMS chair for three years during which she recruited clinical and basic science faculty to serve on its executive committee and engage the larger campus community with tailored opportunities for networking, mentorship, advocacy, and programming.