Ocala marks International Women’s Day

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Posted March 12, 2021 | Ocala Gazette Staff

An International Women’s Day celebration on Sunday in Ocala focused on celebrating women in the sciences. 

The event, hosted by Ollin Women International, was held at NOMA Gallery and featured a reenactment by Dee Collier as Florence Nightingale, the 19th century English woman often referred to as the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale established a nursing school in London in 1860 and was instrumental in making nursing a profession. 

The program also highlighted Dr. Effie Mitchell Hampton, the first Black woman to hold a medical license in Florida.

“She grew up right here in Ocala. Started her practice here,” said Barbra Fitos, who led the event. 

Fitos also remembered Dr. Margaret Palmer Ayers, the first Ocala physician on staff at Munroe Memorial Hospital, now AdventHealth Ocala. She opened her practice in the early 1950s. 

“Their groundbreaking work is but a prelude to the accomplishments of the women we recognize today,” Fitos said.

Those local women included: 

  • Carolyn Adams, founder of Estella Byrd Whitman Wellness Center
  • Alicia Beasley, clinical pharmacy manager for Ocala Health 
  • Ann Burnett, executive director of FreeD.O.M. Clinic
  • Stephanie Cortes, dean of health sciences at the College of Central Florida
  • Bonnie Door, associate director at IHMC Ocala
  • Dr. Pamela Lewin, physician at Estella Byrd Whitman Wellness Center
  • Dr. Mery Lossada, chief medical office at Hospice of Marion County
  • Carlette Norwood-Williams, director of Pharmacy at AdventHealth Ocala
  • Dr. Srisha Rao, cardiologist with CVI Cardiovascular Institute 
  • Drumeka Rollerson, founder of Black Nurses Rock
  • Ursula Schwuttke, director of educational outreach at IHMC

International Women’s Day was first celebrated in the early 1900s and rose out of the fight for women’s issues at the time, including the right to vote. It is now observed around the world on March 8 and is part of the wider Women’s History Month observances during March. 

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