Who was Dr Vera Gedroits? Google Doodle honors Russia's first female military surgeon on her 151th birthday

Dr Vera Gedroits saved countless lives through her innovations in the field of wartime medicine


                            Who was Dr Vera Gedroits? Google Doodle honors Russia's first female military surgeon on her 151th birthday
Dr Vera Gedroits (C) was born on April 19, 1870 (Wikimedia Commons)

For those of you who logged on to Google and noticed the Doodle for the day, here's the woman featured in it -- Dr Vera Gedroits. The Doodle commemorated her 151th birthday which falls on April 19. A Russian surgeon, professor, poet, and author, Dr Gedroits was the country's first female military surgeon and also one of the world’s first female professors of surgery.

Dr Gedroits saved countless lives during her time as a wartime medic and later as a professor. She was known to have performed complex surgeries with a high success rate in the most unlikely of conditions, before finally becoming the professor of surgery at the University of Kiev in 1929.

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Dr Vera Gedroits (Google Doodle)

She vowed to become a doctor

Born Vera Ignatievna Gedroits in 1870, she was the daughter of Daria Konstantinovna Mikhau and Prince Ignatiy Ignatievich Gedroits. She was born in Slobodische, which is now Bryansk Oblast. Her father's family was part of a Lithuanian princely clan.

Her father fled to Russia after the Polish uprising of 1863 and established a tobacco plantation. Dr Gerdoits had five siblings -- Maria, Ignatiusm Nadezhda, Alexandra and Sergei. Sergei and she was particularly close and his early death affected her greatly. It was after his death that she began taking interest in medicine, with the hope to prevent suffering.

She was openly lesbian

Seeing that she was unable to further pursue her education in Russia, Dr Gerdoits set her eyes on Switzerland and found a way to continue her studies -- she entered a marriage of convenience with a friend, Nikolai Belozerov, despite being openly lesbian.

The pair married in St Petersburg. They kept in contact and often spent time together, seeing that they genuinely were good friends and shared affection. Their union, however, was well hidden. Belozerov, who was in the military, went to Irkutsk in Siberia, while Dr Gedroits used her new name to obtain a passport and go to Switzerland, where she enrolled in the University of Lausanne and trained to become a surgeon.

After earning perfect marks, she got her diploma as a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery. Following this, she was in a relationship with a woman, but upon receiving a letter from her father that her sister Alexandra had died and that her mother was unwell, she returned to Slobodishche, seeing that her father promised to help her secure a job at a new 10-bed factory hospital

Groundbreaking strides

Dr Gedroits began performing laparotomies (a procedure where small incisions are made through the abdominal allowing access to the abdominal cavity) on her military patients. Prior to her discovery, military surgeons avoided treating abdominal wounds entirely, seeing that standard treatment required the patient to be placed in a semi-reclining position to drain the wound.

Without equipment and anesthesia, doing so seemed impossible. However, she realized that if given immediate attention, her method yielded a high success rate. Her work was soon documented and recommended by international journals, petitioning for mobile surgical units to allow rapid treatment. Seeing just how successful the procedure was, The Russian Army and the Russian Society of Military Doctors officially adopted Gedroits' operative procedures.

Having authored numerous medical papers during her time, Dr Gedroits helped revolutionize medicine and saved numerous lives during her own lifetime. She was truly a woman ahead of her time.

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