Betty J. Bamforth

Betty J. Bamforth wore many hats, including physician, teacher, mentor, historian, and professor emeritus of anesthesiology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health until her death in 2001 at age 78.

After completing medical school at Boston University, Bamforth arrived at Wisconsin General Hospital to begin her residency in 1951. She was among the last residents to serve under Ralph Waters, MD, chair of the UW Department of Anesthesiology and widely considered the father of modern anesthesia. The department was the first such academic department in the United States.

Betty J Bamforth

Bamforth joined the UW medical school faculty as an associate professor of anesthesiology in 1954, remaining on the faculty for 38 years. She spent 10 years as the medical school’s assistant dean for student affairs and a year as the assistant dean for academic affairs.

Bamforth achieved several firsts in her career. She was the first female chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and the first female mentor for the medical school, serving the Class of 1992. The next year, she was the first woman to deliver the distinguished keynote Emery A. Rovenstine Memorial Lecture for the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the most prestigious award bestowed by the society.

She attained national and international prominence largely for her writing and lecturing about the history of anesthesiology.

When asked whether she felt she had helped to break down barriers and forge new paths for women in the medical profession, she answered modestly, “I probably did, although it didn’t seem so at the time.”