Dr. Justina Ford Goes Higher

7,000 was the number of babies she brought into the world.

31 were the years she served the diverse community of east Denver—treating patients regardless of ethnicity, nationality, or ability to pay—offering resources and food for those who lacked them.1 She is reported to have said, “Folks make an appointment and whatever color they turn up, that’s the color I take them.”1

Multiple were the number of languages she learned as she served her community.

2 years before her death, the Colorado Medical Society finally (after previously rejecting her) granted her membership.

The residents of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood simply called Justina Ford, M.D., the “Lady Doc”—sometimes the “Baby Doc.”

The hurdles were many for the daughter of formerly enslaved parents, but Ford set out early on the high road of healing:

“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. I used to like to help dress a chicken for dinner so I could see what was on the inside. I watched my mother use her hands, heart, and ways of our ancestors using roots and natural herbs to take care of her patients, and I wanted to do the same.”2

In 1899, Ford graduated from Herring Medical College in Chicago. She recalled, “I chose Herring because it was neither a black nor women’s college. The school accepted me because of my qualifications.” After a brief aside in Alabama, Ford and her husband headed to Denver, where denied Colorado Medical Society and American Medical Association membership (and thus the permission to practice in hospitals), she established her own home practice instead.2

More hurdles. Always the high road over them.

In a letter to her sister, Ford wrote,

“I will continue to fight. Not for me, but for all people. I hope the children I deliver into this world live long enough to see opportunity. When all the fears, hate, and even some death is over, we will really be brothers as God intended us to be in this land. This I believe. For this I will continue to work for the rest of my life.”2

And she did . . .

Until 2 weeks before she died, at the age of 80.

Watch Rocky Mountain PBS’s “Colorado Experience: Justina Ford, M.D.” for a compelling glimpse into her life:

 

1″Only in Denver: Dr. Justina Ford Transcended Race, Gender,” THE DENVER BLOG (blog), VISIT DENVER, January 4, 2021, https://www.denver.org/blog/post/only-in-denver-dr-justina-ford-transcended-race-gender/

2 Colorado Experience, episode 102, “Justina Ford, M.D.,” directed/written/produced by Betts, Donnie L., produced by Rocky Mountain PBS and History Colorado, aired February 28, 2013, on Rocky Mountain PBS, https://video.rmpbs.org/video/colorado-experience-justina-ford-md/

*Her Voice, Her Story image created by Sakura for The Mudroom.

Nichole Woo
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