Celebrating Black History Month: Joycelyn Elders
Updated: May 10
This month we are taking a look at African-Americans who fought for racial justice and also made advances in the medical field.
Joycelyn Elders was born in 1933. She grew up in a poor share-croppers family, and pressed on in her studies to become a full professor at the University of Arkansas. In 1978, she was the first person to become board certified in pediatric endocrinology in the state of Arkansas.
In 1987, she became the head of the Arkansas Department of Health under then Governor Bill Clinton. She lobbied for programs in the school system that promoted substance-abuse prevention and that promoted self-esteem. As it relates to our industry, during her time in office she also fought for increasing access to home care services for those with chronic conditions and the terminally ill.
In 1993 she became the first African American, and the second woman to become the head of the U.S. Public Health Service under Bill Clinton. After her time in office, she returned as a professor at the University of Arkansas.