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National poster contest winner highlights pioneering female doctor

For those who have been around Washington for a while, the name Dr. Susan Dimock may ring a bell. A pioneer in the field of medicine, she was among the first women in the United States to be recognized as a surgeon, at a time when female doctors were the exception. She spent her childhood in Washington, and her headstone stands in the churchyard of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

This week, Dimock’s medical career is receiving renewed attention in the national medical community, after a poster documenting one of her surgical wonders was selected as first-place winner out of 180 entries in the History of Surgery Poster Contest sponsored by the American College of Surgeons.

“We have discovered all kinds of things about Susan Dimock over the past four years that no one has ever known before,” said Susan Wilson, who is currently writing Dimock’s biography. “We discovered this really amazing surgery, considering it was 1873.”

The poster, entitled “Susan Dimock, MD, Pioneer Female Surgeon, Boston, 1872-1875,” details a surgery the one-time Washington resident performed in 1873, removing 71 tumors from the neck of a 7-year-old girl.

Led by Wilson, the team behind the poster included a student partner, Megan Catalano, medical advisor Dr. Jane Petro and graphic designer Pat Nieshoff.

For Wilson, researching Dimock’s life has been a passion over the course of the past four years. For more than 30 years, she’s been writing books about the history of Boston, where Dimock served as resident physician at the New England Hospital for Women and Children until her death in a shipwreck in 1875. She was just 28 years old.

“I’m thrilled, because this (poster contest) means that Susan Dimock’s story is getting out there,” Wilson said. “That includes Washington, North Carolina.”

All told, Wilson says she is about 80% finished with her work on Dimock’s biography. A full pdf copy of the poster is available here and may be printed at no cost.

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