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  1. ITV Report

19th Century medical pioneer honoured in Bristol

Elizabeth Blackwell. Photo:

A woman who revolutionised the male-dominated world of medicine in the 19th Century is finally being honoured for her pioneering work.

Despite being born in Bristol in 1821, few know about the achievements of Elizabeth Blackwell who became the first woman doctor after emigrating to America.

Now the University of Bristol has launched the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, a £12 million project which aims to introduce new treatments and therapies to benefit patients.

"She opened the medical profession to women," says historian Mary Wright, "and she did it alone without wealth or influence or privilege. What she achieved should be worthy of great honour."

The green plaque in central Bristol. Credit: ITV News West Country

Until now, a solitary green plaque on the wall of a tucked away house in central Bristol was all the recognition given to the contemporary of Florence Nightingale.

Blackwell, one of 9 children who never married but later adopted a daughter, Kitty, founded the National Health Society, the forerunner to the NHS, with its then forward-thinking motto 'Prevention is Better Than Cure'.

Having emigrated to America with her family, she became that nation's first woman to receive a medical degree. With buildings, statues, even a film in her honour, she's better known in the USA than she is in Bristol.

The University of Bristol has launched the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research. Credit: ITV News West Country

Prof Jeremy Tavare, Director of the Institute, says it will build new communities of researchers to tackle the big problems in public health today.

"Elizabeth Blackwell gave so much to the world of medicine," he added. "It's high time we gave something back. I was really taken with what she did and stood for and she's a fantastic icon for the institute. She's a local unsung hero."

One of the Institute's first projects is to develop sensor systems to monitor the health of people who live alone, detecting abnormal changes in people's physical activity, gait and mood especially after major operations.

A short film highlighting the project through the words of the public has been produced with the help of Aardman Animations.

Aardman Animations have produced a short film. Credit: Elizabeth Blackwell Institute

Watch Richard Payne's full report here: