“I'm most proud of my time spent as Assistant Dean of Students. My legacy, I hope, will be that I helped some medical students become good and caring physicians.”
Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin
Growing up in the 1940s in Philadelphia, Bernice Sigman, M.D. recalled how her father encouraged her to follow the example of the women who were studying to become physicians at the nearby Medical College of Pennsylvania, the successor to the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and now the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine.
"I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child," she commented. "My parents said go for it. My father pointed out all the women at the Medical College and told me I could do the same. There weren't a lot of women doctors at the time."
Sigman went on to graduate in 1960 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, one of three women in a graduating class of 93. It was the start of a long and meritorious career that culminated in her becoming the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, acclaimed as one of the school's finest medical educators.
Now retired, and nominated as a Local Legend by Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD-3), Sigman has the distinction of being the first female Associate Dean in the history of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. During her tenure, Dr. Sigman was widely recognized by medical students and colleagues for her support and dedication in promoting an exceptional medical education for students at the University.
She began her medical career with a residency in pediatrics and later was Chief Resident in Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Hospital. She then went to the University of Washington for her fellowship in genetics and returned to the University of Maryland as Assistant Professor in the department of pediatrics. She later became a part-time Assistant Dean and in 1977 full-time Associate Dean for Student Affairs.
In the early 1970s, the number of women in medical school and on the faculty at the University of Maryland was woefully inadequate, according to Frank Calia, M.D., a colleague of Sigman's. "She served as a role model and mentor for women students, helping many to plan their careers and supporting them when they had difficulties. Her efforts on the behalf of medical students earned her the nickname of 'Mother Superior.'"
As a national leader, Sigman served as Vice Chair of the Student Affairs Committee of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which elected her its President in 1990.
She has published extensively and researched children being treated for Phenylketonuria (PKU). She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Office of Student Affairs Exemplary Service Award (1988), and the University of Maryland Alumni Service Award (2000). In 1977, Alpha Omega Alpha elected her a faculty member.
"I'm proudest of all of the medical students with whom I had a chance to work," Sigman said. "To paraphrase the ending of the novel Goodbye Mr. Chips-I don't have any children of my own, but my students were my children, so I have hundreds of children, and they are all doctors."
Appointed Instructor in Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore
Appointed Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Appointed Assistant Dean, Student Affairs, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Elected Faculty Member, Alpha Omega Alpha
Appointed Associate Dean, Student Affairs, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Appointed Medical School Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Served as National Vice-Chair, American Association of Medical Colleges Group on Student Affairs
Elected National Chair, American Association of Medical Colleges
Recipient of University of Maryland Alumni Service Award
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD