(VIA BLACKAMERCIAWEB) Dr. Edith Irby Jones was the first African-American student to attend the University of Arkansas School of Medicine – nine years before the Little Rock Nine – and she was also the first woman president of the National Medical Association.
Born in 1927 to Mattie Buice Irby, a maid, and Robert Irby, a farmer, Irby’s family lacked proper medical care because it wasn’t available to the black community. Her sister died of typhoid fever at age 12. Even Irby would suffer severe pain from rheumatic fever at seven years old, and somehow, she recovered from the illness.
Her sister’s death would serve as motivation for Irby to study medicine in Arkansas. Now Edith Jones, she would gain degrees in chemistry, biology and physics. but while attending school, she wasn’t allowed to use the same dining, lodging or bathrooms as white students. After getting her bachelor’s, Jones attended the University of Arkansas School of Medicine as the first black student and the first black person to attend medical school in the south.
Jones wasn’t done with discrimination. during her residency in Houston at Baylor College of Medicine Affiliated Hospital, she was segregated with limited patient rosters. She would finish the last three months of her residency at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C. before opening Mercy hospital with other black physicians.
In 1985, Jones became the first black female president of the National Medical Association and opened her own clinics in both Haiti and Mexico. She also is a charter member of Physicians for Human Rights, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.