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Dr. Jean L. Fourcroy

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1930

Medical School

Medical College of Pennsylvania


District of Columbia

Career Path

Obstetrics and gynecology: Reproductive endocrinology
Surgery: Urologic
Dr. Jean L. Fourcroy


Dr. Jean Fourcroy was a founding member of the Society of Women in Urology.


Originally as a child I had planned to become a doctor - as a child playing with dolls! I am not sure where the idea came from, but it was constant. I went to college at University of California, Berkeley as a pre-med (which is a combination major of psychology and biological sciences.) However, I dropped out at the end of the third year to put my first husband through graduate school. This was 1951. In 1962 I realized for a variety of reasons that I had to finish college with four children and returned to San Jose State University to complete my college degree in 1964. At that time, I was asked to teach all of the labs (embryology and comparative anatomy) by the person who turned out to be my strongest mentor, Dr. James Heath. This meant that I worked on my master's degree in biology at San Jose at the same time. In 1967 I was asked to take over the lectures. However I realized by 1968 that I had to get a Ph.D. to be tenured and entered University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). There I was fortunate to meet my next mentor, Dr. Laurel E. Glass. At no time did I contemplate going to medical school because I was now thirty-eight years old - too old by the standards of the day. (I should also point out that in 1950 UCSF took one woman per 60 students and in 1968 they took two women per 120 students.) During the course of my studies and completion of my Ph.D., I realized that I still wanted to go to medical school. With the help of my faculty, I took the Part 1 Exams and in 1972 was admitted to the Medical College of Pennsylvania (also called Woman's Medical College) as a third year student.


Dr. Jean L. Fourcroy postponed studying medicine to support her husband's career and raise a family. She was 42 years old and the mother of four teenagers when she began training as a physician in 1972, and has gone on to become a leading advocate for women in medicine and a nationally-recognized scientist and surgeon.

Although she had enrolled in pre-med classes at the University of California, Berkeley in 1951, Jean Fourcroy sacrificed her interest in medicine to support her husband's career. She dropped out of school, but she never lost her desire or determination to pursue medicine. In 1962, with four young children—the baby still in diapers—Fourcroy enrolled at San Jose State University to complete her bachelor's degree. It was just the beginning. By the time Jean Fourcroy received her M.D. from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1974, she had already earned her master's degree in biological sciences and completed the course work for her Ph.D. in anatomy.

While serving a surgical internship and residency in urology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Dr. Fourcroy completed her Ph.D. dissertation in 1977. In 1981 when Dr. Fourcroy received her board certification in urology, she was only the fifth woman in the United States to do so. Dr. Fourcroy continued her academic training and received her master of public health degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1999.

While working as a staff urologist in a Washington, D.C., private practice in 1979, she also volunteered as a urology consultant for Project Hope in Guatemala. As a captain in the U.S. Navy, Fourcroy served as an academic urologist at Bethesda Naval Hospital from 1980 until her recent retirement. During her tenure there, Dr. Fourcroy also worked as a medical officer with the Food and Drug Administration in the Division of Clinical Laboratory Devices. With the FDA, she was involved in many aspects of the regulatory process. Her research experience in insect physiology, developmental and reproductive biology and in occupational safety enabled Dr. Fourcroy to become a leading expert in areas of drug abuse, particularly anabolic steroids. She was recently appointed to the board of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and has been an invited presenter at Drug Enforcement Agency workshops, both in the United States and abroad.

In 1999, Dr. Fourcroy received the Camille Mermod Award from the American Medical Women's Association for which she served as president in 1995. She is also past president of the Federation of Professional Women and the National Council on Women in Medicine. In 1996 she was named the Woman of the Year by the Women's Medical Association New York City. Dr. Fourcroy received the American Urological Association Presidential Citation Award in 1998. An active member of the American Society of Andrology, Dr. Fourcroy received an Outstanding Service Award from the organization in 2000.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Children, husband and money. (I know this is more than one!) When I started medical school, the children were 18, 16, 15 and 12 years of age. To date, none are happy with my returning to school. My husband was an alcoholic, which in fact made it a necessity to pick myself up by my bootstraps. Money was short. However, I was fortunate to be able to teach through most of my career. When I went to medical school, my stepfather and mother loaned me $3,000 to pay the two-year tuition.

How do I make a difference?

I am hoping that I have made a difference by mentoring others. By chance I went into a surgical specialty, urology. The mentors at the Medical College insisted that I should do a surgery residency and the urologists at George Washington University encouraged me to go into urology. I did not realize at the time that I would become the fifth woman urologist. I have been fortunate at every point of my career to use my inner resources to grow even when bad things happened to me. I have been able to meld the world of science and medicine hopefully to the benefit of patients and society. I have used my skills organizationally to lead the American Medical Women's Association and to encourage other women urologists through the Society of Women in Urology (which I founded) and a variety of other areas.

Who was my mentor?

One has more than one mentor in life. My strongest mentors were my mother and grandmother. My grandmother danced on the stage the world around before settling as a single mother in a small town in New Jersey with four children. She was the doctor, the vet and the philosopher of this village. There was nothing she could not do. With a maternal lineage of strength there was no thought as to whether it could be done. Other mentors have included a variety of peers, friends and professors who helped with the path.

How has my career evolved over time?

For me, change was a necessity. How has it evolved? There is no part of my life I would eliminate nor perhaps repeat. Every part of my education and training has added depth. I went from being a housewife in Palo Alto (where I was involved in too many community activities), to graduate school, medical school, residency, academic practice with the Navy and the Food and Drug Administration, and finally to a free-lance consultant in urology/endocrinology. And through it all, life is (and must be) a continuing building process. In between, I still try to keep up with arts, for example painting and music.