Anna Broomall was chief resident physician at the Woman's Hospital of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania from 1875 to 1883 and instructor of obstetrics from 1875 to 1879. She became chair of obstetrics in 1879, and served as a professor in the department from 1880 to 1903.
Anna Elizabeth Broomall was born in 1847 and grew up in Upper Chichester Township in southeastern Pennsylvania. Born into a Quaker family, she was fortunate in having parents who supported equality and higher education for women. When she told her father she wanted to become a doctor, he told her to make sure she was a good one. After attending private schools in Pennsylvania, Broomall entered the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduating with a doctor of medicine degree in 1871.
To help pay for her education, Anna Broomall was a pupil assistant at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, carrying coal, making fires, and scrubbing floors. She believed in the value of hard work and years later earned the respect and loyalty of her future assistants because she never asked them to do anything she would not do herself.
In 1869, while still a student at WMCP, dean Ann Preston arranged for her students to attend lectures at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the first time. Broomall was one of the women who endured hoots, cat calls, and spit balls until the hospital managers restored order. "The valiant nine" were eventually chased from the building by male students unwilling to be educated alongside women. Broomall and the rest of Dr. Preston's group returned each week, nonetheless, and eventually even received apologies from some of the students who had harassed them on that first visit. Broomall completed the lecture series and an internship at WMCP and went to Europe to study obstetrics under several prominent physicians in Vienna and Paris.
In 1875, she returned to Philadelphia and accepted a position as chief resident physician at the Woman's Hospital in Philadelphia, determined to raise standards of instruction and care to the levels she observed in Europe. Dr. Broomall spent the next eight years as chief resident there, working hard to improve the training of nurses and care of patients. At the same time she taught at the Woman's Medical College. In 1879 she took over as chair of obstetrics after the death of Emeline Horton Cleveland, M.D. To improve the obstetrical training of her students and provide much-needed patient care she established one of the first clinics for out-practice maternity care in the county. Her clinic was located in South Philadelphia a community whose poor residents were particularly at risk of fatal complications during pregnancy and delivery.
Dr. Broomall paid particular attention to the use of antiseptics and state-of-the-art procedures, such as Caesarean section and other methods to ease the delivery of the fetus. By the end of her tenure, the college could point to its low mortality rate (less than twenty per two thousand) compared to that of other institutions, as evidence that women physicians could practice medicine successfully, applying the very highest standards.
Dr. Broomall was professor of obstetrics for the next twenty years, also acting as a gynecologist for the Quaker-run Friend's Asylum for the Insane in Philadelphia. She published several case studies based on her work and undertook an extensive inspection and public lecture tour which took her as far as India and Asia to visit former students on missionary duty there. Dr. Broomall retired from practice in 1903, volunteering instead as librarian and curator at the Delaware County Historical Society. Given her goals and the obstacles she faced, it should be no surprise that Broomall was described as a tough teacher, even "alarming," in her drive to instill in students a sense of the obstetrician's responsibility to patients.