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2011 Salute to Health Care Honoree: Dr. Ruth Grant

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Dr. Ruth Grant is a pioneer for women in medicine, particularly in the field of oncology-hematology.

The New Jersey native and 40-year health care professional arrived in Springfield after completing a hematology fellowship at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.

Her journey to Springfield can be tracked to one person: Dr. John Mihalevich.

While she and her husband, Dr. Howard Schwartz, were working at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., friend and mentor Mihalevich visited, on a recruiting trip of sorts.

“In that era, it was pretty difficult for physicians who were married to find situations that were ideal for both members. John really facilitated that for us, just serendipitously,” Grant says, recalling the interviews he set up to land them jobs in Springfield – her with Dr. Robert Carolla and Schwartz with Dr. Lynn Ferguson at Ferrell-Duncan Clinic.

Grant and Carolla in late 1979 formed Oncology-Hematology Associates of Springfield, and she was among the first female internal medicine specialists in town. The independent clinic today, on the Cox South campus, comprises five doctors treating patients with cancer or blood disorders, though Grant is “90 percent retired” and her work is limited to the laboratory.

Grant acknowledges her fight in the academic halls on behalf of women.

“When I interviewed for medical school, it was legal to ask women if they were planning to have a family, and how you could have a family and still practice medicine,” she says, noting she was one of 15 women in her class of 90 at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “I really had to work hard to prove that I should be taken seriously, that I was serious about medicine and that I wasn’t going to take advantage of being a woman and asking guys to do my work for me.

“Once I got into the Springfield community, I was really welcomed and it was a good place to be.”

Grant did have children, and with the help of a live-in nanny, she juggled the roles of doctor and mother.

During her career, she’s witnessed key developments such as chemotherapy anti-nausea drugs, medications to stimulate white blood cell recovery in bone marrow and discovery of genetic conditions that predispose people to form blood clots.

“It appears we’re on the verge of very individualized cancer treatments,” she says.

Click here for full coverage of the 2011 Salute to Health Care.
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