Dr. Christine Commerford, C'75
Today, Christine Commerford is a successful doctor with her own practice in family medicine in Baltimore. However, women were just coming to the forefront of the medical profession when Dr. Commerford graduated with honors in biology from the Mount in 1975.
“It was a different time,” says Dr. Commerford, who is the Mount’s first female graduate to become a doctor. “In fact, when I enrolled at the Mount there were about 135 women on campus compared to 1,075 men. Later, when I enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, 25 percent of my class consisted of women. We thought that was wonderful at the time. Now, however, it is more like 50 percent.”
Dr. Commerford had been interested in medicine since high school and made her commitment to pre-med once she arrived at the Mount. “I knew it was a good school and had a good environment for working in the sciences, which is what I wanted,” notes Dr. Commerford, who went on to receive numerous academic honors and awards.
At the Mount she was encouraged and inspired. She fondly recalls Dr. William Meredith, head of the biology department at the time, as being “extremely helpful in guiding the students in pre-med.” And Dr. George Morningstar, the campus physician, “introduced me to the idea of family medicine. He seemed able to take care of a bunch of different issues, from stitching up a banged-up athlete to treating a student with an upper respiratory infection,” she says. “It made me think about family practice and doing what he did.”
After finishing medical school in 1979 and her family practice residency at the University of Maryland Hospital in 1982, she chose to go into private practice. “I chose my own practice because I could make the decision to work the hours I wanted to work and focus on my family.”
With the birth of her first child, Dr. Commerford, who had met her future husband at the Mount, worked just a few hours a day. “I wanted to be a full-time mom and a part-time doctor,” she says. Gradually, as the years went by and her three children grew up she increased her hours and workload.
The Mount’s first female doctor has not forgotten the lessons she learned there. “There was an emphasis on Christianity, doing the right thing and reaching out to others,” she says. In many ways, it is why she chose medicine. “Being in a family practice, you deal with such a wide range of problems and meet all kinds of different people in all kinds of different situations. You are there for the joyful times and, of course, you are there for the very sad and stressful times, too. There is always an opportunity to help others.”
Christine’s husband, Harry Neiderer, is class of 1974.