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Dr. Eleanor Gossard Shore

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1930

Medical School

Harvard Medical School



Career Path

Administration: Medical school deans
Internal medicine: Preventative
Dr. Eleanor Gossard Shore


Dr. Eleanor Shore initiated the Fiftieth Anniversary Fellowship Program for Scholars in Medicine, to promote gender equality in career development and allow junior faculty to balance family life with their professional responsibilities without missing out on opportunities for advancement and promotion.


I liked biologic sciences immensely, ever since a tenth grade biology teacher made the subject come alive. I majored in biology at Radcliffe College and planned to go to graduate school in biochemistry. It was only in my senior year that I realized that I could combine my fascination with biology with my interest in and commitment to people through a career in medicine. Medicine is a rare career in that one can combine research, teaching, administration, and patient care.


Dr. Eleanor Shore was a dean for faculty affairs at Harvard Medical School and deputy director of the Harvard Medical School Center of Excellence in Women's Health. She trained at Harvard Medical School during the postwar 'experimental' era, between 1945 and 1955, when women were admitted on a trial basis. In her academic roles, she led the drive to increase diversity amongst Harvard faculty and has instituted a range of new initiatives to promote gender equality in career development at the school.

Eleanor Gossard was born in Ottawa, Illinois in 1930. She became interested in science in high school, and was particularly inspired by a biology teacher she had in the tenth grade. She decided to major in biology at Radcliffe College, and planned to go on to graduate school to study biochemistry. In her senior year at Radcliffe, Shore attended a lecture given by Dr. Kendall Emerson, dean of students at Harvard Medical School. He talked about the efforts the school was making to recruit women students and the need for the perspective of wives and mothers in medicine. Eleanor Gossard had thought that going into medicine meant giving up the idea of marriage and having a family, but Dr. Emerson's speech encouraged her to apply. She graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor's degree in 1951, and was accepted at Harvard Medical School, where she was one of eight women in her class of 118 students.

In 1945 Harvard had begun a ten-year trial to admit women to the medical school, and many women students who participated in the experiment felt intense pressure to succeed. As Dr. Shore remembers, "we thought that if we didn't do really well and try to fit in with the system, no women would ever be admitted again." Encouraged by the idea that she could balance her career with family life, Gossard studied hard and married fellow student Miles Shore in her third year of medical school. Dr. Shore graduated in 1955, and went on to an internship at New England Medical Center Hospital in Boston. America was involved in the Korean War at the time, and many of her male colleagues from medical school were taking up research posts at the National Institutes of Health instead of serving in the Army. Dr. Shore remembers that, because women did not have this pressure, they took the usual routes to practice of internships and residencies, and were not encouraged to pursue academic research. They were therefore at a disadvantage if they later tried to build careers in academic medicine. Nonetheless, the success of the Harvard experiment led, in 1958, to the decision to admit women from then on.

Dr. Shore took part-time work in her early career in order to start a family, but continued to see patients until she returned to medical school in the late 1960s. She graduated from Harvard School of Public Health with an M.P.H. in 1970, followed by a series of appointments at the medical school. She served on numerous committees and kept up her medical practice as a physician member of the university health services. Dr. Shore also became increasingly involved in medical school administration and issues pertaining to women in medicine, becoming associate dean for faculty affairs in 1978 and serving as Harvard's women's liaison officer to the Association of American Medical Colleges from 1981 to 1990.

In 1989 Dr. Shore was appointed dean for faculty affairs, with responsibility for the implementation of policies on research standards and increasing diversity amongst the faculty. In 1995, Dr. she launched the Fiftieth Anniversary (of the admission of women to Harvard Medical School) Fellowship Program for Scholars in Medicine, which allows junior faculty to 'buy' time for academic work or employ research assistants when they have added family responsibilities. The program is crucial in terms of career development, as maternity leave and time off for childcare can leave women physicians with families 'behind' in terms of research and published papers in comparison to their colleagues. In 2001, the Association of American Medical Colleges awarded Dr. Shore the History Maker Award for her work to make medical career structures more equitable.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

I experienced no big obstacles in becoming a physician. The biggest obstacle came when I tried to find a combination of family and profession that would allow me to be a significant contributor to both. Forty-seven years later, I am still reaching for the perfect combination, but each component has enhanced the other, and I have no regrets about choosing this career.

How do I make a difference?

In my forty years of providing patient care, I tried to bring a public health/preventive medicine perspective to the care of my patients. For several decades I coordinated the teaching of faculty and students who were going to underdeveloped countries where no medical care was available. Later, I studied the microbiologic risks of travel to these countries. When I added academic administration to my responsibilities, as dean for faculty affairs, I worked to assure quality of faculty through a vigorous competitive appointment process. I have also tried, through a series of programs, to achieve equal access of women to academic medicine. It was this goal that led me to launch the fellowship program that would help junior faculty to continue their academic careers through those times when family and other obligations made the quest rather perilous. The message is that one has to seize whatever opportunities present themselves to step out of the routine and into new territory to make a difference.

Who was my mentor?

There was no single mentor. I have been fortunate in having a series of persons who have helped me to create a one of a kind medical career. First there was the tenth grade biology teacher. Then there was a microbiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health who pushed me to expand my horizons and take on an academic administration position as assistant to the president of Harvard University (for health affairs). In this position, President Derek Bok taught me to take on broader and broader responsibility for projects where there was no road map. Finally, my husband has always encouraged me to take on larger and more difficult assignments than I ever thought possible. I am grateful to all of these individuals for helping me to embrace an ever changing, always interesting, career in medicine.