Black History Month: Dr. Virginia Alexander

For Black History Month, we will highlight Dr. Virginia Alexander, an African American public health pioneer who addressed how segregation and discrimination affected African Americans’ health.

            Dr. Virginia Alexander was born in 1899 in South Philadelphia. Her father was the owner of a successful riding academy, and her mother was a housekeeper. She graduated with honors from William Penn High School for Girls, now known as the Franklin Learning Center, and received a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania. Alexander attended Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (1850-1970) and was the only black American in her class. After attending medical school, she completed her internship at Kansas City Colored Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.

            Alexander returned to Philadelphia and started a clinical practice; Aspiranto Health Home was a three-bed hospital used for recovery for maternity care and minor surgery. Dr. Alexander was involved in public research in Philadelphia. In her research, she discovered the health disparities in the African American community, such as infant death, tuberculosis, and patients experiencing discrimination in the hospital with giving the minimum or no care at all. Alexander was part of the network of African American doctors to identify the systemic racism in health care. Dr. Virginia Alexander spent most of her research in public health. She received her master’s degree in public from Yale University, making her the first African American woman to receive a degree from Yale University’s School of Medicine. Even though her life was cut short at the age of 50 to complications of lupus, Dr. Alexander has dedicated her life to public health and promoting health disparities in the nation.

Suggested Reading about Dr. Virginia Alexander

A story incomplete: Virginia Alexander’s life among friends. American Friends Service Committee. (2015, February 25). Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://afsc.org/news/story-incomplete-virginia-alexanders-life-among-friends

Gamble V. N. (2016). “Outstanding Services to Negro Health”: Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Dr. Virginia M. Alexander, and Black Women Physicians’ Public Health Activism. American journal of public health, 106(8), 1397–1404. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303252

Wagner, E. (2021, December 9). Dr. Virginia Alexander (U.S. National Park Service). National Parks Service. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.nps.gov/people/dr-virginia-alexander.htm  

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