Friends from Yale School of Medicine’s Class of 1977 were visiting their old med school stomping grounds during Yale University’s campus-wide 50WomenAtYale150 celebration in October 2019. Gail Sullivan, MD, MPH; Diana Wasserman, MD; Polly Thomas, MD; and Marybeth Ezaki, MD; decided to explore Sterling Hall of Medicine (SHM), the medical school’s central building. But while one member of the group, Wasserman, was looking for a basement passageway that they used to use as a shortcut to Yale New Haven Hospital, they came across signs for the medical school’s “Mothers’ Room”—a dark, barren room in the basement with a urinal. “It was hideous,” says Ezaki.
The group composed an email to Nancy J. Brown, MD, now Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Yale School of Medicine and C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine. At the time, Brown was preparing to step into her role as dean. “We wrote her an email saying, ‘We have a problem, but we have a solution,’” says Ezaki.
Members of the Class of ’77 gathered together to raise the funds for a brand new Mothers’ Room at SHM. The group celebrated the room’s opening on June 4 during the medical school’s Alumni Weekend. “Relegating women to a breast feeding room in the remote bowels of the basement was unacceptable,” says Wasserman. “We wanted to make sure as a class that we did something to recognize how important women’s contributions are to medicine.”
The birth of the Mothers’ Room began with an old office with orange shag carpeting. A construction team led by Paul D’Amico transformed the space with new floors, windows for natural lighting, paint job, and ceiling tiles. The much-improved suite includes a kitchenette and three private rooms, which the team plans to furnish with recliners and ottomans.
“Enabling faculty, students, and staff who are mothers to use the lactation room and nurse their children improves their lives and the lives of their families,” said Dean Brown.
“We have more and more young women medical students, residents, and attendings who are having families during all phases of their training,” says Lisa Lattanza, MD, professor and chair of orthopaedics & rehabilitation. “It’s important to show that we are accepting of women in medicine and we are embracing and supporting them on their paths.”