For a long period of time, the practice of medicine in the United States did not include women physicians. Some early women to receive their medical degrees included the first, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell who graduated from the Geneva College of Medicine in 1849 and the first African American woman, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler who earned her degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864. Most medical schools did not accept women until the early 20th century. And it would take decades before women physicians would have representation in the field of medicine. 


According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 1950, only 6.9% of medical students were women and women doctors represented less than 5% of doctors. Today, the American Medical Association indicates that about 37% of doctors are women. Family medicine has a slightly higher percentage with 42% of physicians that are women. In direct primary care, there seems to be better representation of women physicians, with 49.11% of doctors who run their practice on Hint Core DPC software identifying as women of those who have specified their gender in our database.


We’d like to take some time to highlight some of those women in this article as Women’s History Month comes to a close. We are inspired by so many women-led direct primary care practices, and will feature two here - Dr. Bhavana Rao of Meridian Springs Primary Care based in Tomball, TX and Dr. Tonya P. McDonald of Radiance Pediatrics based in Dallas, TX.


Dr. Bhavana Rao opened her practice with her husband, Sunil Vasisht MBA in May 2017. Dr. Bhavana was still working full-time as a hospitalist and Sunil was working full-time in research and development as an engineer at HP while the clinic was open. Some months after though, it became apparent that Dr. Bhavana needed to dedicate herself full-time to Meridian Springs Primary Care and so she did, with her husband following in January 2019. 


Tonya P. McDonald, MD, FAAP is a board certified pediatrician who decided to start her direct primary care practice in the fall of 2018 after taking a summer sabbatical from her role in outpatient pediatrics medicine at Children’s Health in Dallas, TX. Dr. Tonya provides care at-home and virtually in addition to her two clinical locations. She focuses on caring for newborns through college-aged young adults, ensuring support of their physical, mental and developmental health.


Dr. Bhavana Rao and Dr. Tonya P. McDonald wanted the freedom to practice medicine in the way that they always envisioned without the restriction of health systems and the insurance-reimbursement model. They both opened their practice at times when there were far fewer direct primary care clinics than there are now. They learned about the model and gained the confidence to step out on their own and that is no small feat. Because of their courage and action, they are now serving hundreds of patients who are receiving the best healthcare through the benefit of the direct primary care model, which restores the doctor and patient relationship. Both Dr. Bhavana Rao and Dr. Tonya P. McDonald are part of Hint Connect, our curated network of direct primary care clinicians.


At Hint, we are committed to sharing these stories and providing resources for clinicians to learn more about direct care and get the tools they need to transition their practice or start their practice including DPC Accelerator and Hint Summit ‘23

To learn about Dr. Bhavana Rao’s DPC journey, check out My DPC Story