Barbara Ross-Lee (Finding Aid)

Barbara Ross-Lee

1942 -

Interview Length: 198 minutes

Interview Date(s): July 25, 2007

Interview Location(s): New York, New York


Barbara Ross-Lee was born on June 1, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan. Her father, Fred Earl Ross, was born in West Virginia, and raised in Detroit, Michigan by his cousins when his mother died. Her mother, Ernestine Moten Ross, was born in Union Town, Alabama, the youngest of twelve children. Ross-Lee's maternal grandfather was a Baptist minister for many churches throughout Alabama. Ross-Lee describes her childhood in Detroit, Michigan, and her responsibilities as the oldest of five children. She recalls the sights, smells and sounds of her childhood, which include the sight of crowded housing, the smell of her aunts and uncles in the South, and the sound of music from the radio. Ross-Lee discusses the presence of gospel music in their lives, their leisure activities, and her early education.

Barbara Ross-Lee discusses her early education and the influence of religion in her family. Ross-Lee attended Balch Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan. She describes the education she received as excellent. She lists her favorite subjects, which included biology and math. Ross-Lee's family attended Scott Methodist Church, and while living and visiting the South, their entire social lives revolved around education and church activities. Ross-Lee describes her family's summer trips to Bessemer, Alabama, and describes the events surrounding her mother's contracting Tuberculosis, during which time they lived in Alabama with an aunt. Ross-Lee discusses her adolescent relationship to her sister, Diana Ross, and family struggles and financial hardships during her childhood.

Barbara Ross-Lee discusses her family's transition into Detroit's public housing, high school, and educational experience. Ross-Lee's family was forced into public housing around 1957, after her father's employment decreased. Ross-Lee attended Cass Technical High School, where she focused on math and science. Ross-Lee describes the school environment as high competitive and as a student, participated in sports and performing arts. She describes planning for college, which was a challenge due to financial hardship. In 1960, she was admitted to Wayne State University, where earned her B.A. degrees in biology and chemistry. Ross-Lee discusses the challenges of being a pre-medical student, and the difficulties for black and female students pursuing medicine. During Ross-Lee's undergraduate years, her younger sister Diana Ross was beginning her career as a singer. Ross-Lee discusses her sister's growing fame and her parents' reactions to Diana Ross' burgeoning career.

Barbara Ross-Lee discusses graduating from college and her introduction to osteopathic medicine. Ross-Lee graduated from Wayne State University in 1965 with her B.S. degrees in biology and chemistry, after which she was hired as a medical technician at Martin Place Hospital, an osteopathic hospital in Detroit, Michigan. She discusses meeting her first husband, James Lee, while attending Wayne State University. They married in 1963, and she gave birth to her first child in 1965. She discusses earning her M.A. degree in education, and her path to osteopathic medicine. Nearly two years after working in the lab, she was advised to apply to the newly opened Michigan College of Osteopathic Medicine, which later became a part of the Michigan State University medical school. Ross-Lee defines and explains the differences between conventional and osteopathic medicine and discusses the biases she encountered as a medical student.

Barbara Ross-Lee discusses the impact of her sister's, Diana Ross, rise to fame. While Ross-Lee was a medical student at Michigan State University, Diana Ross was gaining more notoriety as a performer. Ross-Lee describes being treated more fairly in school once her sister became famous. Ross-Lee talks about career beginnings. After graduating from medical school, she interned at Martin Places Hospital and opened a private practice in 1974 in Detroit, Michigan. She ran the practice until 1983, during which time she joined the U.S. Navy Reserves as a physician. In 1983, Ross-Lee closed her practice to join Michigan State University as chair of the Department of Family Practice. She also discusses her experience in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellowship Program, where she worked for Senator Bill Bradley on health care policy.

Barbara Ross-Lee discusses her work as an osteopathic medical school administrator for Ohio University, Michigan State University and the New York Institute of Technology. As the Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University, Ross-Lee was able to create alliances with hospitals statewide, allocate funding for health programs in Appalachia, Ohio, and build a clinical infrastructure to support medical students. She describes osteopathic medical education and her political work in giving the field a voice in federal legislation. As the Dean for Health Policy at Michigan State University, Ross-Lee created the Heritage Fellowship, funded by the American Osteopathic Association. Ross-Lee discusses the challenges of becoming the Dean of Allied Health at the New York Institute of Technology, where she was able to revise the osteopathic medicine curriculum to better train students given the resources available in New York for students of osteopathic medicine.

Barbara Ross-Lee discusses the integration of osteopathic medicine and conventional medical facilities. Osteopathic medicine is more widely known and accepted, and thus doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.)students have become major competition for residencies at allopathic hospitals. She states that the profession is more widely known and that she has enjoyed her career as an administrator. Ross-Lee reflects on her hopes for African Americans in the medical field, and discusses her disappointment in the lack of physical health among minority populations in the United States. Ross-Lee talks about the restrictive nature of minority recruiting in medicine, noting that the recruiting effort is geared towards training minorities to treat minorities. She hopes that more minorities will receive the necessary training and opportunities to treat all communities, so that they are able to help treat health issues in their communities without sacrificing the income of treating wider populations.

45 Stories (See Ordered Story Set)