Black Female Doctors Share Their Stories
Vanessa A. Ragland, DO '83
Standing on her Shoulders: Celebrating Meta L. Christy, DO, and African American Alumnae
Vanessa A. Ragland, DO ’84
Family Physician, Family Medical Associates Inc., Haleyville, Alabama
“I’m a native of Birmingham, and I went to Spelman College, an all-female HBCU, in
Atlanta. Moving from the Deep South to Philadelphia to attend PCOM was a culture shock.
I loved having new experiences, meeting new people, eating new foods. … My elective
rotations helped prepare me for my future as a physician. I interned at Saginaw Osteopathic
Hospital in Michigan, and then spent the next four years in public health in Marianna,
Arkansas. … I moved to Haleyville, a predominantly white community, in 1989. Less
than one percent of the population is Afro-American. When the hospital hired a white
male DO, I learned he was paid $38,000 more than me. … Early on, a white male patient
refused to be seen when he realized I was Black physician. Another white male patient
said, ‘I told my ol’ doc that if there was an ‘n’ doctor in town, I’d go see that
‘n’ instead of waiting for him. So he gave me your location.’ Trying to persuade the
local schools to teach about National Black History Month or about Afro-American contributions
to the making of America was futile. … In 1998, my older son died at the age of 13.
Coincidentally, every year around the anniversary of his death, the school would call
to inform me that my remaining son’s braided hair was ‘too distracting.’ I decided
to send him to a more diverse school in Georgia. … I am the original founder of our
company. We now have two office locations with two DOs, two MDs, four NPs, and about
50 support staff. Our patients are white, and few are Hispanic. … I always sit down
to listen to what my patients have to say, and I don’t take notes while they are talking.
I want them to know they have my full attention. … There have been so many more positives
than negatives, like the elderly white gentleman who said, ‘I’ve watched you fight
and claw your way up to the top. I respect you and I love you,’ or the toddler who
licked my hand because he thought I was chocolate! There are a lot of ‘I love yous’
said in my office, and they’re genuine. My patients love me and I love them. … Thirty-one
years ago, I was just passing through. After all these years, I guess I’m still just
passing through. … More important than the color of the physician is the quality of
as told to Janice Fisher
Standing on her Shoulders
Read more stories from African American female physicians, leaders and health professionals.
About Digest Magazine
Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine,
is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on
osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.