Black History Month Feature: Who is…Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee?

By: Lauren Erskine

Part Three of the “Who Is…?” Series

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, the older sister of singer Diana Ross, states that ”If it wasn’t for me, she [Diana] wouldn’t have been successful, I was responsible for watching out for Diana, taking her with me, making sure she did right. Therefore I am the one who is responsible for her. I molded her into what she is today.”

Born June 1, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan, Barbara Ross-Lee is the first black woman to be appointed as dean of an American medical school. As an African- American woman, she was steered away from becoming a doctor and so pursued teaching. She found that was not what she was meant to do and attended Wayne State University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology in 1965. In 1973, Ross-Lee received a doctorate in Osteopathy from Michigan State University. She then ran her family practice in Detroit for ten years.

Ross-Lee has served as an educational consultant for the United States Department of Health and Human Services and chairwoman of the department of Family Medicine at Michigan State University.

Dr. Ross-Lee was the first osteopathic physician to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship, where she served as legislative assistant for health to Senator Bill Bradley. She was dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University, until 2001. Dr. Ross-Lee later became the dean of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2002. She runs a health policy fellowship for practitioners and is establishing a national health policy program for second-year medical residents.

”I am used to being in the minority, I’m female. I’m African-American. I have learned it does you no good to try and hide…” stated Dr. Ross-Lee.



  1. Chandler, D. (2015, November 18). Little Known Black History Fact: Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee. Retrieved from blackamericaweb.com: http://blackamericaweb.com/2015/11/18/little-known-black-history-fact-dr-barbara-ross-lee/2/
  2. FISCHLER, M. S. (2002, February 10). LONG ISLAND JOURNAL; Diana Ross’s Sister Tops Charts in Medicine. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/10/nyregion/long-island-journal-diana-ross-s-sister-tops-charts-in-medicine.html?pagewanted=all
  3. Royster, J. R. (n.d.). Ross-Lee, Barbara (1942- ) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed:. Retrieved from Blackpast.org: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/barbara-ross-lee-1942

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