A History of Nevada’s Healthcare Heroines 

Mar 16, 2022

There are so many ways to honor Women’s History Month and this year at Nevada Health Link, we’re recognizing five women, among many, that have made an impact in healthcare throughout the state. 

This year’s theme is focused on “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope”, as both an awareness of the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during the ongoing public health emergency/pandemic. 

May these brave women inspire you, and celebrate the thousands of ways that women of all backgrounds and cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history. 

Eliza Cook 

Eliza Cook was one of Nevada’s first frontier doctors. Her journey in healthcare began in 1882 when she nursed Dr. H.W. Smith’s wife. During this time, Eliza studied all of Dr. Smith’s medical books while working as his assistant and nurse. Six months later, Eliza enrolled into Cooper Medical College in San Francisco, which later became Stanford Medical School. In her class of sixteen students, she was one of five women. After graduating in 1884, she returned to Carson Valley to practice, and also delivered babies for a physician in Genoa. Eliza also was a strong supporter of women’s rights; in 1894, she wrote a letter to the Reno Gazette listing eleven reasons why she was in favor of women having equal voting rights with men.

Elizabeth Cunningham 

Elizabeth Cunningham was the first elected president of the Reno Nurses Association, established in 1909. Her election was influenced when a doctor named George McKenzie, who came to Nevada from Colorado, offered to provide lectures to nurses in an effort to help establish a nurse training school at Sister’s Hospital in 1910. This created conflict among nurses about geographic variances in nurse preparation. This prompted Elizabeth to lead discussions centered around women practicing nursing without certification of appropriate training. 

Lubertha Miller Johnson 

Lubertha Miller Johnson is the first Black Nurse hired at Clark County General Hospital in Las Vegas. When she became president of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), she helped expand employment opportunities for Blacks in the school district, hospitals, and hotels. She also helped enact open housing legislation to support enacting Nevada’s civil rights law. 

Dr. Cheryl Hug-English 

Cheryl graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelor of Science degree, earned her M.D. from the UNR School of Medicine. She has more than three decades under her belt as medical director of the Student Health Center. Under her leadership, the Student Health Center launched a women’s health program for students, delivered COVID-19 testing and health care for the entire campus.

Dr. Rebecca Edgeworth, M.D. 

Rebecca Edgeworth of Touro University, Nevada in Las Vegas, is on a mission to help those with limited access to healthcare and caring for those most in need in the southern Nevada community. A Las Vegas native of 20 years, Rebecca said she chose a career in medicine as she enjoys learning about how health and disease affect people and help improve lives with quality care.