A Black History Month feature

Gina Ruffin Moore

Herald Contributor

Lucy Orintha Oxley. Photo provided

In 1935, Lucy Orintha Oxley became the first African American woman to earn a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She graduated from Woodward High School at age 16. Her father, Edmund H. Oxley, rector of St. Andrew Episcopal Church in the West End, and some of his prominent friends strongly garnered community support to get her enrolled into the College of Medicine. Even though she was a straight-A student in high school and college, the dean assumed she would flunk out.

She was called the N-word on a daily basis by professors and classmates. She could not attend college activities. She was ostracized because of her race and gender. (This was during a time when women were rarely accepted into med school.) She ended up graduating as one of the top 15 medical students. General Hospital offered her an internship- then turned it down. The dean of the College of Medicine told her, “Miss Oxley, you are a Negro, and we don’t want you.” Jewish Hospital denied her residency.

She ended up interning at Freedman’s Hospital now Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC.

General Hospital did not hire its first African American physician or African American nurse until the 1950s. That’s less than 65 years ago.

Dr. Oxley opened her own practice in Walnut Hills. She co-founded the Ohio Academy of General Practice (now the American Academy of Family Physicians) after World War II.

In 1974, she was named Ohio Family Physician of the year and also served on the Ohio State Board of Medical Examiners.

This medical pioneer gained national and local fame for her professionalism. Dr. Lucy Oxley had over 200 patients at the time of her death from lung cancer in June 1991. One daughter and four grandchildren survived her.


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