Celebrating Black History Month: Dr. Lucy Oxley

Posted Thursday February 14, 2019



By Jude Luke

Dr. Lucy Oxley was the first African American woman to earn a Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1935. Her parents, a teacher and a minister, moved to Cincinnati when Lucy was 3 years old. She then graduated from Woodward High School at the age of 16 before enrolling in UCCOM’s prestigious 6-year combined undergraduate and medical program. Oxley states that she wanted to be a doctor her whole life and had many doctors in her family. Lucy became the first African American woman admitted to the UCCOM.

During her time at UCCOM, Lucy Oxley faced a large degree of discrimination. She frequently encountered racial slurs by professors and other students and a sense of isolation in her social life for being black. Despite these obstacles, Lucy persevered and finished in the top 15 of her medical class, an extremely impressive achievement.

At the time, the top 15 students of UCCOM were reserved a coveted internship spot at Cincinnati General Hospital. Despite Lucy’s high rank, when she interviewed for the position, she was told by the program director that she was “a Negro and we don’t want you”. Lucy’s father was able to successfully help her find a residency at Washington DC’s predominantly African-American Howard University. After finishing her internship, Lucy returned to Cincinnati where she was still unable to gain access to admitting privileges at any of the city’s hospitals and instead worked in student health services researching cancer.

Eventually, Dr. Oxley started a family practice in the predominantly black area of Walnut Hills in Cincinnati in 1958. As her practice grew, Dr. Oxley gained respect throughout the area and established a positive reputation for herself and her practice. She treated patients of all races and delivered thousands of babies over the course of her career. Throughout her career, Dr. Oxley received multiple awards, including the American Medical Association’s Special Achievement Award in 1967 and being the first woman named Family Physician of the Year by the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Oxley also worked to cofound the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians and served as a member of the Ohio State Board of Medical Examiners.

Dr. Oxley passed away in June of 1991 from lung cancer. Throughout her illness, she continued to treat patients and at the time of her death had over 200 patients in her practice. She is survived by one daughter and 4 grandchildren. In 2008, UCCOM faculty established the Lucy Oxley African American Medical Student Scholarship to honor Dr. Oxley and provide financial assistance for minority medical students.

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