Fort Worth

Medical Pioneers Pave Path for Women

Trailblazers share stories of challenge and change in Fort Worth

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Two women changing the face of medicine will be guests of honor when they meet with students in Fort Worth next week.

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee is the first Black female dean of a U.S. medical school. She worked in private practice as a family physician before moving into academic medicine. In 1993, she accepted the position of dean at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of Ohio University. She remained dean until 2001.

"We talk about being the first Black female dean of a U.S medical school but not only was I the first but I was also the only, and the only for a long time which meant that just getting there didn't solve the issue, that's where the work began," Ross-Lee told NBC 5.

"Hopefully, I have paved the way for others to begin to be in this field which is male-dominated," said Dr. Velma Scantlebury, the country's first African-American, female transplant surgeon. She recently retired from Christiana Care's Kidney Transplant Program where she served as the Associate Director, and Director of Outpatient Clinics. She currently holds the position of Professor of Surgery at Texas Christian University (TCU) and University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) Medical School in Fort Worth.

Both doctors faced challenges on their medical journeys but believe the path is getting easier for the women of color who follow.

"You're not gonna get everything and it's not gonna change overnight but the progress is what you're looking for and that becomes exponential. And that's why I say we're now at a point that we still have very few Black women and it's very clear the number of African-American men is just devasting, but we're moving forward and we're not retracting and that's the important thing. And, so we have to keep the push going," Ross-Lee said.

"More women of color have been given recognition because we're now being able to be seen and heard and to make our presence known. We've been there all along. Now people are recognizing there is very little equity in the system and we're now being given that chance to shine," Scantlebury said.

"I'm glad and elated and delighted to see the next generation move into that level even though, I must acknowledge, we haven't eliminated all the barriers. There's still barriers. We're still struggling in some ways as Black women to be able to be seen and recognized to be able to get into the c-suite, being able to get to a level where we are at the table but it becomes easier if now you have those with the advantage to be able to say, let's look around the room and see what we can change."

"We talk about being first and we talk about the need for more women and the need for more minorities particularly Black, African-American but the reality is it's not the numbers. The number is just the means; they're not the goal," Ross-Lee said. "The goal is to build a healthier population, one that reflects equity and does not have significant and appalling health disparities in minority communities. And you can only do that in you have all of these perspectives involved in structuring and delivering health care to people and that's what's so important."

The retired doctors will be speaking at TCU on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. for an event called Changing the Face of Medicine, A Fireside Chat and Book Signing. The public is invited.

To register, email or call Lisa McBride, Ph.D., the medical school's Assistant Dean for Diversity & Inclusion at 682-404-4514.

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