Dorothy Lavina

Dorothy Lavinia

Surgeon
Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown was the first African American female surgeon in the South. She grew up in an orphanage in upstate New York and started her education at the age of 15.

In 1937, after graduating at the top of her class, she was offered a full scholarship to Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. Brown received her bachelor’s degree and went on to pursue her medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. She interned for one year at Harlem Hospital, then chose surgery as her residency specialty.

At the time, there were no African American women that worked in general surgery in the South, so she had to break that barrier herself. In 1955, Brown was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, becoming the first African American woman to do so. While her main focus was surgery, Brown was a consultant on health and welfare for the National Institutes of Health.

She continued to push limits when she became the first African American woman to serve in the Tennessee state legislature.