Barbara Ross-Lee

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Barbara Ross-Lee

Born (1942-06-01) June 1, 1942 (age 78)
Alma materWayne State University
Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine
OccupationPhysician, Academic
EmployerNew York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
Minnesota College of Osteopathic Medicine
Known forFirst female dean of a US medical school
James Lee
(m. 1964; div. 1970)

Edmond Beverly
(m. 1976)
FamilyDiana Ross (sister)

Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O. (born June 1, 1942) is an American physician, academic, and the first African-American woman to serve as dean of a U.S. medical school.[1][2][3] She majored in biology and chemistry at Wayne State University, graduating in 1965.[4] Then, in 1969, she entered Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. Ross-Lee then went on to open her own private family practice, teach as a professor, and hold other positions within the medical community, until 1993 when she was elected as the first woman dean of a medical school, at Ohio University's Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has earned several awards and honors for her work and accomplishments.[5][6]

Life and education[edit]

Ross-Lee was born to Ernestine (née Moten; January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984) and Fred Ross, Sr. (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007) and raised in the housing projects of Detroit. She is the eldest of six children, including sister Diana Ross. Ross-Lee attended Wayne State University for her undergraduate education. She was married during her junior year, which prolonged graduation by a year.[6] Barbara Ross had begun her pre-medical studies at Wayne State University in 1960, during the growth of the civil rights movement. At that time, few medical schools offered admission to minority students and neither federal nor private funding was available to help support students from low-income families. At Wayne State, her pre-medical advisor did not believe women should be physicians, and so she declined to authorize Ross's request to study human anatomy as her major.[5] Ross instead graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry in 1965 and joined the National Teacher Corps, a federal program, in which she could earn a degree while teaching simultaneously in the Detroit public school system.[7] After completing the program in 1969, a new educational opportunity arose when Michigan State University opened a school of osteopathic medicine in Pontiac, a Detroit suburb, to which Ross-Lee applied and was accepted.[1][8][2]{[9] After opening her own private practice in family medicine, she later remarried to Edmond Beverly, who worked for the Michigan public schools. Together, they raised Ross-Lee's five children.[6]


After graduating from medical school, Ross-Lee remained in Detroit working at her private practice for ten years.[6] She then took a position with the United States Department of Health and Human Services where she worked on medical education and people of color in medicine. Dr. Ross-Lee was also community representative on the Governor's Minority Health Advisory Committee for the state of Michigan from 1990 to 1993.[1] She was the first osteopathic physician to receive the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship. Dr. Ross-Lee was also awarded the "Magnificent 7" Award presented in 1993 by Business and Professional Women. She has received the Women's Health Award from Blackboard African-American National Bestsellers for her contributions to women's health, the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and an honorary doctorate of science from the New York Institute of Technology.[1]

First Female Dean of a U.S. Medical School[edit]

In 1993, Ross-Lee became the first African American woman dean of a United States medical school. She remained dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of Ohio University until 2001.[10] During her tenure there, she reformulated the entire course of study, and drafted a women's curriculum, earning a reputation as a "change agent."[1] Ross-Lee led the American Osteopathic Association's Health Policy Fellowship program and the Training in Policy Studies program.[11]

After leaving Heritage, she became the vice president of Health Sciences and Medical Affairs at the New York Institute of Technology; in 2002, she became dean of its New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.[1][8][2][9] She continued to hold her position as the vice president of Health Sciences and Affairs at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine during her deanship and advocated for women and people of color in the medical field, as well as for the greater field of osteopathic medicine.[6] Ross-Lee was dean of the School of Health Professions and the College of Osteopathic Medicine. During her tenure at New York Institute of Technology, Ross-Lee built NYITCOM into the fourth largest medical school in the U.S.,[12] the fourth highest ranked osteopathic medicine program in the U.S.,[13] and helped establish NYITCOM at Arkansas State University in 2016.[14] Ross-Lee was also an appointed member of the National Institutes of Health's Advisory Committee on Research on Women's Health and served on the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.[1] Dr. Ross-Lee is currently a fellow of the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians, a member of the American Osteopathic Association's Bureau of Professional Education, and the Trilateral International Medical Workforce Group of the United States Agency for International Development.[15]

Minnesota College of Osteopathic Medicine[edit]

In 2018, Ross-Lee was appointed the founding dean and chief academic officer[16] of the Minnesota College of Osteopathic Medicine, Minnesota's first osteopathic medical school,[17] which will be located in Gaylord, Minnesota.[18][19]

Honors and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Changing the Face of Medicine | Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee". Retrieved 2020-08-23. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c Chandler, D. L. (2015-11-18). "Little Known Black History Fact: Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee". Black America Web. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  3. ^ "Ross–Lee, Barbara". Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  4. ^ "Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee". The MY HERO Project. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  5. ^ a b "Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Ross–Lee, Barbara |". Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  7. ^ "Meet Diana Ross' Sister, Groundbreaking Doctor Barbara Ross-Lee! | - Where Wellness & Culture Connect". 2018-12-09. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  8. ^ a b Fischler, Marcelle S. (2002-02-10). "LONG ISLAND JOURNAL; Diana Ross's Sister Tops Charts in Medicine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  9. ^ a b "Ross–Lee, Barbara". Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  10. ^ "40 Things to Know: Our college was led by the first female African American dean of a medical school | Ohio University". Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  11. ^ Seifer, S; Kahn, J (May 1994). "Preparing future physicians as health policy leaders". Academic Medicine. 69 (5): 410. doi:10.1097/00001888-199405000-00022. ISSN 1040-2446. PMID 8086050.
  12. ^ "15 largest osteopathic medical schools in America". Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  13. ^ "Osteopathic Schools Ranked by MCAT". Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  14. ^ "Barbara Ross-Lee, Osteopathic Medicine Pioneer and Visionary, Announces Retirement | News Releases | NYIT". 2017-04-24. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  15. ^ American Osteopathic Association (2009), "Physicians, Osteopathic", in Mullner, Ross M. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Health Services Research, Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, doi:10.4135/9781412971942.n321, ISBN 978-1-4129-5179-1
  16. ^ "Faculty". Physician Moms Group. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  17. ^ Aamot, Gregg (2019-07-08). "Gaylord sees transformation in proposed osteopathic medical school". MinnPost. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  18. ^, Brian Arola. "Proposed Gaylord medical school nears construction". Mankato Free Press. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
  19. ^ Olson, Jeremy (2018-11-21). "Osteopathic school still planned for rural Minnesota". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2020-08-22.