Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee

by Sabin from Raleigh

“Each year, over 50,000 minorities die from preventable disease. That’s shameful and you [medical students] must address it.”

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee



Many people see heroes as people with “super powers” such as Spider-Man. However, the truth is that there are heroes all around us. Heroes go outside of the box, doing something that no one else in their situation has done. A hero can be a role model. A hero has perseverance. Heroes set new boundaries.

ohio university college of osteopathic medicine
Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (self|cc-by-sa-3.0) [public domain]

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee was born in 1942. She came from an unfortunate past that is hard to imagine. She is the oldest of six children from a poor inner city Detroit project. She became a surrogate mother to her siblings at age 10, when her mother was hospitalized for two years with tuberculosis. At the age of 16, Dr. Ross-Lee nearly bled to death from a tonsillectomy. Her mother died from breast cancer, diagnosed too late. She lost her firstborn child to cardiac complications from German measles. Dr. Ross-Lee went on to lose two subsequent pregnancies due to blood poisoning. Her youngest child was born prematurely at 5½ months, surviving, weighing just 2 pounds.

As children, Dr. Ross-Lee and her siblings sang in a church choir. Her sister, Diana Ross, left the projects as the celebrity lead singer of the Supremes. Dr. Ross-Lee earned a degree in science and chemistry in 1969. She went on to join the National Teaching Corps. This is a program in which she could study for free, while she taught in the Detroit public school system. In 1969, Michigan State University opened a College of Osteopathic Medicine. Osteopathic Medicine is a branch of medicine which views the human body holistically. It emphasizes the prevention and treatment of illness and injury through the use of manual and physical therapies along with traditional practices such as drugs and surgery. As a single mother, Dr. Ross-Lee needed help with childcare, so she sold her house and moved back in with her mother. In 1973, Dr. Ross-Lee graduated from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. For the next 10 years, she ran a hectic family business in inner city Detroit.

Dr. Barabara Ross-Lee 2001
Dr. Barabara Ross-Lee 2001
Photo by: Jay Bradley Photography Inc.

In 1984, Dr. Ross-Lee left the family business and joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a health professions consultant on education. In 1993, she was honored to become the first African American woman to be appointed dean of an American Medical school. She remained dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of Ohio University until 2001.

In 2001, Dr. Ross-Lee became the vice president for Health Sciences and Medical Affairs at the New York College of Technology. In 2002, she became the dean of New York Institute of Osteopathic Medicine. Currently, she remains one of seven female deans of medical schools in the United States, as well as the first African American to hold the title.

Using perseverance, Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee has set new boundaries for women, African-Americans, and people living tough lives. She will forever be a hero.

Page created on 4/3/2006 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/4/2020 7:28:21 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

National Library of Medicine: - Biography of Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee
NC Health Careers Access Program: - "The Health Vulnerable: Getting to Higher Ground" - a summarized lecture given by Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee
National Black Nurses Association: - addresses the health care needs of African Americans.

Extra Info

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee has a Doctor of Osteopathy degree from Michigan State University. She has a bachelors and master's degree from Wayne State University.

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee has won many awards:

July 31, 2003 - Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee was honored with the National Black Nurses Association Trailblazer (NBNA) Award.

2001 - Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee was awarded with Patenge Medal of Public Services from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

1998 - Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from NYIT.


Unknown, Author. "Osteopathic Medicine." [Online] Available


Author Info

Welcome to my webpage! I hope this teaches you as much about Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee as it has taught me while I was making it!