Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee isn’t famous for singing like her sister Diana Ross, but she is a star in her own right. Dr. Ross-Lee is the first Black woman appointed as dean of an American medical school, along with other honors and accolades.
Ross-Lee was born June 1, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan. Along with her siblings, the future doctor had an interest in music and show business. But as Diana’s star began to rise and eventually morphed into her stellar career with The Supremes, Ross-Lee pursued the path of higher education.
The osteopathic medicine pioneer started her studies in 1960 at Wayne State University. She was steered away from her desired path of becoming a doctor due to both her race and gender. Instead, Ross-Lee briefly pursued teaching but eventually found her way to medical school in 1969.
Michigan State University opened a school for osteopathic medicine and accepted Ross-Lee’s application. While Ross-Lee battled racism and other barriers, she said in an interview that medical school was made tolerable by the popularity of her sister’s music. After graduating in 1973, she opened a family practice that lasted until the early ’80’s.
After working in the ’80’s as a health consultant for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Ross-Lee was named the first osteopathic physician Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship Program in 1991. In 1993, her historic appointment as dean at Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine took place and she remained there until 2000.
In 2001, she was named the vice president of health sciences and medical affairs at The New York Institute of Technology in 2001. The following year, she became the dean of NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Currently, Ross-Lee is spearheading an effort to open a second College of Osteopathic Medicine on the campus of Arkansas State University. She will serve as the dean of the forthcoming ASU facility.