Intended for healthcare professionals


Bernadine P Healy

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 14 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5860
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}

Controversial advocate for women’s health

As a girl growing up in New York City in the 1950s, Bernadine Healy, the daughter of second generation Irish-American parents, wanted to be a nun. But at 12 years old, she changed her mind, deciding that studying medicine would be the best way to use her “God given talents” to help people.

A wise decision, as being a nun would have been extremely difficult for Healy, a staunch feminist who throughout her life fought for causes she believed were right. Later in life she noted that a big inspiration in her life was the 1956 novel A Nun’s Story by Kathryn Hulme, about a Belgian nun who grapples with her desire to leave the convent for the intellectual and personal freedom of being a medical nurse.

First in battle

Healy’s husband, Floyd D Loop, a cardiac surgeon, said that his wife many times had been “first in battle and the last to leave the field,” adding, “She was all about honesty, human rights, and fairness. While most of us speak but don’t act, she did both—to great advantage for so many.”

In 1991 she was appointed by President George H …

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