It can’t be easy being related to a music legend, but Barbara Ross-Lee has managed to carve out her own lane and make history in her own way. While she is the oldest sister of Diana Ross, Barbara passed on the entertainment industry in order to help people. She ended up becoming the first Black woman to be appointed dean of a medical school, and to this day, she’s still making history. Check out five things you should know about the physician and educator.
She Initially Was Interested in Show Business
Barbara Ross grew up alongside four other siblings, including her younger sister Diana, in Detroit. Both liked the idea of being part of the music business, and sang in a church choir to cultivate their talents. Despite all of that, Diana went forward with pursuing a music career while her older sister went a different route in the hopes of pursuing a career in medicine.
Her Adviser Didn’t Think She Belonged in Medicine
While studying at Wayne State for undergrad, a pre-med adviser told Barbara that women weren’t cut out to be physicians. Therefore, the adviser, who was a woman too, wouldn’t give a green light to Barbara’s plans to study human anatomy. Because of that, she instead focused her attention on biology and chemistry, obtaining bachelor of science degrees in both in 1965. From there, she studied to become a teacher.
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She Decided to Pursue Medicine After All — the Osteopathic Kind
Her course was steered in another direction when Michigan State University opened up a school for osteopathic medicine in a Detroit suburb. She applied and was accepted, deciding to focus her attention on getting a degree in that. She did, graduating from the University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1973, eventually opening her own family practice in Detroit in the early ’80s. From there she would become a consultant for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and serve on quite a few different committees. In 1993, she came upon her biggest opportunity yet.
She Dealt With Quite a Bit of Racism and Sexism
Not so fast, though! It wasn’t an easy move to the top for Barbara. In fact, she told EBONY that she faced a lot of racism in her attempts to help people — namely in the form of discrimination from patients.
“It was always about a perception of your ability,” she told the publication. “During my clinical years, there were patients who wouldn’t see me because I was Black or because I was a woman or both. If they didn’t want my help, it was okay. I never let that be the determinant of what I was able to achieve.”
Over 20 years ago Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee sister of Diana Ross of the Supremes, became the 1st black woman to be appointed dean of a predominantly white medical school in the United States in 1993. She remained dean of the college of osteopathic medicine of Ohio University until 2001 #barbararosslee #deanofmedicine #blackhistoryiseveryday #blackhistorymonth #share #melanin #dotheresearch #eachoneteachone #positiveimpact #positiveblackrolemodels #share #knowyourhistory
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She Was the First African-American Woman to Become Dean of a Medical School
It was 1993 when Barbara became the first Black woman to be made dean of a medical school in the United States. The opportunity came from the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University, and she held her position as dean until 2001. She was said to have changed the course of study there in a major way, including putting together a women’s curriculum. From there, she was made vice president of Health Sciences and Medical Affairs at the New York Institute of Technology. In 2002, she was appointed dean of the school’s New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. She was most recently named dean of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (that was a mouthful), which opened in 2016. She led the effort to bring Arkansas its first osteopathic medical school, and only its second medical school.