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Breaking Barriers in the Name of Research

Award recognizes first female urology resident at SMHS

Within most successful researchers there lies a stubborn streak; a flicker of perseverance that lights the way past personal and professional setbacks en route to the next big idea. So it was for Jean L. Fourcroy M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, RESD ’79, who at 32 years of age, with four small children in tow, returned to school to completed her bachelor’s degree. By the late 1970s, having already earned a master’s degree in biological sciences, an M.D., and a Ph.D. in anatomy, Fourcroy became the first woman to be admitted to the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (SMHS) Department of Urology residency program. In 1981, Fourcroy became only the fifth woman in the country to earn board certification in urology.

In recognition of that fierce determination and her guidance as a role model for women entering the field of urology, SMHS has created the Jean L. Fourcroy M.D. Research Award thanks to a generous gift from Fourcroy and her husband Armin Behr.

“It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of such a tremendous pioneer and scientist,” says Tiffany Sotelo, M.D. ’01, assistant professor of urology at SMHS, who will oversee the award. “We are proud to help her legacy live on forever.”

Jean L. Fourcroy“I hope it will encourage more residents to take an interest in research, and more faculty and others to be supportive,” says Fourcroy of the award. Describing her vision for the award’s impact on the urology department, Fourcroy adds, “Recently I visited the Jackson Laboratory in Maine — an organization whose work I have been following since I was a student — and I was impressed by how fully involved students, including undergraduates, are as contributors in their research and how much the senior investigators value students’ input.”

The award will support research, scholarship, and publishing expenses for female urology residents and female medical students interested in studying urology at SMHS. An award will be presented each year to a female urology resident or student who best exemplifies the devotion to patient care and commitment to research demonstrated by Fourcroy throughout her career.

“Nationwide, nearly 80 percent of urology residents are men,” says Thomas Jarrett, M.D., professor and chair of urology at SMHS. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, fewer than 10 percent of practicing urologists in 2010 were women. “Here at GW, on the other hand, over the past five years more than half of our residents have been women.” It’s a statistic, says Jarrett, that the department is proud of, and, with the help of this gift, it’s a trend he hopes will continue for years to come.

During her career, Fourcroy served as a captain in the United States Navy, as an academic urologist stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital from 1980 until her retirement. She was also a medical officer for the Food and Drug Administration, in the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 1992, Fourcroy helped found the Society of Women in Urology. In 1999 she received the Camille Mermod Award from the American Medical Women’s Association, a professional association for which she served as president in 1995.

“My first impulse is to say: Get your Ph.D.!” says Fourcroy, of the message she hopes to convey to aspiring urologists. “Of course, I know this is not the answer for everyone. I can say that the best doctors I have known have had a healthy respect for science.”

Find more information about the SMHS Department of Urology here.