Little Known Black History Fact: Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee

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.