Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month with these Black DO physicians

The DO commemorates Black History Month with 16 biographies of influential Black DOs.


This Black History Month, join us as we recognize the accomplishments of some of today’s most celebrated and influential Black DOs. From historic trailblazers to newcomers on the osteopathic medical scene, read on to learn more about just some of the incredible contributions by Black DOs.

Historic Black DOs

Ethel D. Allen, DO (1929 – 1981)
First African American councilwoman in Philadelphia

Ethel D. Allen, DO

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, Ethel D. Allen, DO, knew she loved medicine from the age of 5. Being a Black woman meant that she needed to overcome almost insurmountable odds in order to make her dream of becoming a physician a reality. After graduating from the all-Black West Virginia State College, she went through seven application cycles before finally being accepted into medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy (now the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine).

When Dr. Allen committed to practicing community medicine, she committed to serving the poorest and most disadvantaged neighborhoods. She referred to herself as a “ghetto practitioner” for the difficult and dangerous circumstances she often encountered as part of her work. Throughout all of this, she faced rampant sexism and racism for being a Black female physician. None of this stopped her from founding the Community Committee on Medical School Admissions, which provided the platform for her work to increase the admission rates of Black medical school applicants.

It also didn’t stop her from becoming the first African American councilwoman elected to an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council. At the height of her political achievement, Dr. Allen served as Secretary of the Commonwealth, making her Pennsylvania’s highest-ranking Black woman. In 1975, Esquire Magazine listed Dr. Allen as one of the country’s 12 Most Outstanding Women Politicians.

William G. Anderson, DO
First African American AOA Board Member and President

Born in 1927 in Americus, Georgia, William G. Anderson, DO, has spent his entire life fighting for the rights of Blacks and African Americans. After graduating from Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completing a surgery fellowship, Dr. Anderson returned to Georgia to practice medicine. However, segregation in 1957 limited his ability to do so.

In response, he founded the Albany Movement, working to register African Americans to vote, developing ways to end racial segregation and leading the civil rights movement in southwest Georgia, which ultimately contributed to civil rights on a national scale.

After becoming the first African American to serve on the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Board of Directors, Dr. Anderson in 1994 became the first African American to be elected president of the AOA. A founding member of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Board of Directors, a past president of the American Osteopathic Foundation (AOF), Michigan Osteopathic Association and Wayne County Osteopathic Medical Association and a former veteran, Dr. Anderson has received 12 honorary degrees. 

Dr. Anderson was married to the late Norma Dixon, who was also a civil rights leader. Together, in 2004, they published “Autobiographies of a Black Couple of the Greatest Generation.” Today, the proceeds of their autobiographies fund minority scholarships for the AOF. Read more about Dr. Anderson’s life and civil rights work.

Rudolph “Rudy” Moise, DO
First Haitian colonel in the U.S. Air Force

Born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Rudolph Moise, DO, emigrated to the United States at the age of 17. With only a basic understanding of English when he started high school in Chicago, he later earned a spot at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Upon graduation, he earned a federal grant to train in Miami, where he could serve the Haitian refugee community. In 1985, he started a private practice that eventually became a multi-site practice called Comprehensive Medical Aesthetics.

While building his practice, Dr. Moise continued to earn degrees. At the University of Miami, he earned both an MBA and a JD in order to better understand the ways in which medicine met business and law. Dr. Moise’s experience working under a federal grant during his training also inspired him to join the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a flight surgeon. Working his way up from major, after 21 years of service, Dr. Moise retired as a colonel. At that time, he held the highest rank ever attained by an American of Haitian descent.

In 2003, Dr. Moise was appointed by then-Florida governor Jeb Bush to serve on the Governor’s Haiti Advisory Group in order to help advance the economic development and resources of Haiti. In 2020, he became the first Haitian American president of the Dade County Medical Association (DCMA). Dr. Moise currently serves as the owner and medical director of Comprehensive Medical Aesthetics in Miami.

Barbara Ross-Lee, DO
First African American female dean of a medical college

Born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in the inner-city housing projects, Barbara Ross-Lee, DO, faced discrimination and barriers to higher education at an early age. When she attended college at Wayne State University (WSU), her advisor refused to allow her to major in human anatomy, believing that women should not be physicians.

She went on to major in biology and chemistry and joined the National Teaching Corps as a teacher. However, she never forgot her goal of becoming a physician. The year that she completed the corps was the year that Michigan State University (MSU) opened a school of osteopathic medicine. Dr. Ross-Lee graduated from the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1973.

Upon graduating from medical school, Dr. Ross-Lee opened a family medicine practice in Detroit. She joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an education and health professions consultant. She served as a community representative on the Michigan governor’s Minority Health Advisory Committee. In 1991, she became the first osteopathic physician to participate in the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship.

Two years later, in 1993, Dr. Ross-Lee became the first African American female dean of a U.S. medical school. She served as the dean of the Ohio College of Osteopathic Medicine until 2001 and later as the dean of NYIT’s New York campus.

Established Black DO physicians

Jude Opoku-Agyeman, DO
First Black fellowship-trained plastic surgeon in transgender surgery

Born in Ghana, Jude Opoku-Agyeman, DO, graduated from the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, New York, and served his fellowship at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Upon completion of his fellowship in 2020, Dr. Opoku-Agyeman became the first Black fellowship-trained plastic surgeon in transgender surgery.

Dr. Opoku-Agyeman practices in the greater Philadelphia area and is the owner of Opoku Plastic Surgery. He is board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery (AOBS) and fellowship-trained in plastic and reconstructive surgery and transgender surgery. Dr. Opoku-Agyeman serves as the director of a local wound care center and is certified in hyperbaric medicine and wound care.

Brookshield Laurent, DO
Chair of the Department of Clinical Medicine at NYIT

A graduate of the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey, Brookshield Laurent, DO, has built her career around addressing healthcare disparities through policy. While completing her family medicine residency at Christiana Health Care System in Wilmington, Delaware, she participated in the AOA Training in Policy Studies (TIPS) program, a specialized training program that teaches residents how to navigate the most challenging policy issues.

She also completed the Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship, a year-long training program designed for osteopathic physicians and other individuals with an established connection to the profession to develop the skills needed to analyze, formulate and implement health policy at local, state and national levels. 

Upon completing the fellowship, she was invited to apply for a position at NYIT by the founder of the fellowship and then-dean of the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, Barbara Ross-Lee, DO (featured above). In 2012, Dr. Laurent joined NYITCOM faculty and currently serves as Chair of the Department of Clinical Medicine at the Arkansas site.

In 2019, Dr. Laurent became the founding executive director of the Delta Population Health Institute (DPHI), the community engagement arm of the NYITCOM campus in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Through the DPHI, Dr. Laurent creates policies to address healthcare disparities in the Delta region of Arkansas.

Magdala Chery, DO, MBS, MPH
Clinical health equity specialist at Google

Magdala Chery, DO, MBS, MPH, is a board-certified internal medicine physician and currently serves as a clinical health equity specialist at Google Health. She provides subject matter expertise in health equity, public health and social determinants of health across the Google enterprise to provide evidence-based guidance on reducing health disparities and improving the health of populations and communities. Her background includes experience with in-home care delivery, product development for digital health startups and academic medicine. 

Dr. Chery is a former Commonwealth Fund Fellow in minority health policy at Harvard University and was the first Black female DO to be selected for this prestigious fellowship.

Tyree (Tye) Winters, DO
Pediatrics residency program director

Tyree Winters, DO, is a specialist in pediatric obesity, a program director and a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). His introduction to medicine came early when, as a child, he was diagnosed with diabetes and struggled with obesity. Inspired to help others like him, he matriculated into medical school at the Ohio Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and went on to complete his residency in pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. In 2013, recognizing the ways in which health disparities can lead to childhood obesity, Dr. Winters created a dance exercise program for kids and became known as the “Hip Hop Dance Doc.”

Dr. Winters currently serves as a trustee and secretary-treasurer for the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP), chair of the Underrepresented in Medicine Learning Community for the Association of Pediatric Program Directors, medical director of the Overlook Medical Center Pediatric HealthStart Clinic, pediatric residency program director at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, New Jersey, and DEI lead for Goryeb Children’s Hospital Department of Pediatrics. He is also a clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel College of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and a member of the ACGME Diversity Advisory Committee.

Ashley Denmark, DO
CEO and Founder of Project Diversify Medicine

Originally from Ferguson, Missouri, Ashley Denmark, DO, knew she wanted to be a physician as early as age 7, when she was a child battling asthma with limited access to healthcare. Years later, her journey into medicine began when she joined the food and nutrition staff at her local hospital. After completing both a post baccalaureate program at Harvard University and a special master’s program at Tulane University, she matriculated into medical school as a member of the inaugural class at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Spartanburg campus.

Dr. Denmark created  Project Diversify Medicine (PDM) during her first year of residency as a response to the lack of diversity she saw in her hospital. The virtual PDM community provides anecdotes, inspiration and educational resources to help minorities get into medical school. After graduating from residency, Dr. Denmark returned to Missouri as the first Black female family medicine physician for Missouri Baptist Medical Center since its opening more than 130 years ago. It was the same hospital where she worked doing dishes 20 years prior.

Octavia Cannon, DO
First African American President of the ACOOG

A native of East Lansing, Michigan, Octavia Cannon, DO, was inspired to become a doctor by her own osteopathic physician when she was 11 years old. She received a full four-year scholarship to attend Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a historically Black institution (HBCU) located in Charlotte, North Carolina, before attending medical school at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Miami. She returned to Michigan to complete her OB-GYN residency at St. John/Detroit Riverview Hospital and Hutzel Hospital. 

While practicing at a private clinic for 22 years in Charlotte, Dr. Cannon also served as the Director of Women’s Health at Gaston County Health Department. She then returned home to practice in East Lansing. In 2018, she became the first African American president of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOOG) since its creation in 1934.

New Black DO physicians

Asia Colen, DO
Co-Founder of the Association of Black Family Medicine Physicians

A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Asia Colen, DO, graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, an HBCU, in 2015. After graduating from NYIT-Arkansas in 2021, she returned to her hometown to pursue a family medicine residency. While in medical school, Dr. Colen served as the president of her school’s Student National Medical Association chapter, which she continues to advise as an alumna. During her transition to residency, she co-founded the Association of Black Family Medicine Physicians (ABFMP), an organization created during the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic that focuses on fostering a community for Black students, residents and early career physicians in family medicine. 

In addition to her work for the ABFMP, she currently provides mentorship to premedical students through her active social media platform and serves as an advisor for her med school’s Student National Medical Association chapter. After residency, Dr. Colen plans to establish a federally qualified health center in her community. 

Aldwin Soumare, DO, MS
Co-Host of MelaninWhite Coats

Originally from the Bronx, New York, Aldwin Soumare, DO, MS, received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rutgers University-Newark in 2013, his Master of Medical Science from Morehouse School of Medicine in 2016 and his Master of Biomedical Professions at Lincoln Memorial University shortly after. As a medical student at PCOM Georgia, which he graduated from in 2022, he served as chapter president of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), MAPS Liaison for SNMA Region IV and Osteopathic Committee Chair for SNMA on the Board of Directors. He was also awarded PCOM Georgia Ambassador of the Year during the 2018-2019 academic year and given the Presidential Award for Diversity and Inclusion at graduation. Dr. Soumare plans to apply to psychiatry residency this upcoming year and pursue a future in neuropsychiatry, forensic psychiatry and mental health policy. 

In addition to his academic achievements, Dr. Soumare is a podcast host and author. He currently serves as co-host of the “SNMA Presents the Lounge” podcast and founder of the MelaninWhite Coats podcast, which covers society, culture and medicine. Dr. Soumare has an upcoming book entitled “Tools of Excellence: From Hood to Hooded: Becoming the Physician You Dream.”

Kala Hurst, DO
Past SNMA Region IV Director

Kala Hurst, DO, is currently a dermatology resident at Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals. During medical school, she served as the 2020-2022 Region IV Director of the Student National Medical Association. She consistently advocated for the voices of students of color within her school in meetings with faculty and administration.

Dr. Hurst also coordinated a summer academy for underrepresented high school students to learn about the medical profession and receive mentorship from both medical students and physicians. Upon her graduation, Dr. Hurst was named the 2022 PCOM Georgia recipient of the Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal, the college’s highest student honor, which recognizes outstanding achievement and service to PCOM Georgia, the community and the osteopathic profession.

As a resident at Case Western Reserve, an institution she chose due to its connection to the Black community of Cleveland, Dr. Hurst serves on her program’s DEI committee to encourage more Black medical students to join the field and advocate for minority patients. Dr. Hurst has spoken on numerous dermatology interest group panels about her experience as a Black medical student and resident.

Alexander Ford, DO, RD
Registered dietician and family medicine resident at Cleveland Clinic

For Alexander Ford, DO, RD, the journey to medicine started with nutrition. Initially working to become a registered dietician, he completed a four-week elective rotation with a renal transplant dietician during his senior year of college. During this time, he learned about the connection between nutrition and medicine, which sparked his interest in pursuing a career as a physician.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in dietetics, he returned to his hometown of Albany, New York, to enroll in the local university and complete the prerequisite courses for applying to medical school.

In 2020, Dr. Ford graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). This year, he was appointed Chief Resident for the Cleveland Clinic Family Medicine program. In addition to working as a third-year family medicine resident at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Ford serves as a columnist for The DO’s Diversity in Medicine column.

Reuben Horace Jr., DO, MBA, MPH
Emergency medicine resident and content creator

An emergency medicine resident and content creator, Reuben Horace, Jr., DO, MBA, MPH, graduated from the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Arkansas campus in 2020. Before earning his DO degree, he also earned two master’s degrees. Witnessing the ways in which the Ebola crisis in West Africa affected his home county of Liberia, he realized his passion for public health and his need to make a difference. As a result, he earned an MPH with a concentration in epidemiology in 2018 before matriculating into medical school. While in medical school, he also pursued his MBA from the NYIT School in Management. 

Dr. Horace is currently a first-year emergency medicine resident at Duke University and plans on pursuing a fellowship in interventional pain management. He uses his social media platform as a physician to bring humor to medicine. In 2022, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine awarded Dr. Horace a grant for a project aimed at reducing bias toward intake psychiatric patients in the ED. 

Danielle Ward, DO, MS
Plastic surgery resident, author and blogger

Danielle Ward, DO, MS, is a plastic surgery resident physician, author and blogger. In 2013, she created the Aspiring Minority Doctor blog in order to document her journey in medicine and provide inspiration for pre-medical and medical students. Dr. Ward graduated from PCOM Georgia in 2018 and completed a General Surgery Traditional Rotating Internship at PCOM in 2019.

From 2017-2018, Dr. Ward served as the first osteopathic medical student to be elected national president of the Student National Medical Association, and in 2020, she published her first book, titled “Atypical Premed: A Non-Traditional Student’s Guide to Applying to Medical School.” Dr. Ward is currently a second-year plastic surgery resident at Larkin Community Hospital – Palm Springs Campus in South Miami, Florida.


  1. Constantine W. Michell DO.

    Ethel Allen DO, a pioneer woman and D.O., who died prematurely from breast cancer. She is remembered as always pleasant and unassuming, with a remarkable personality.
    Constantine W. Michell D.O. PCOM ’65

  2. Beverly Roberts-Atwater

    Great information!!!!. Thank you.
    I think that I am the first African American D.O., Ph.D. that is Chair of an Allopathic Department at an Allopathic school. Can you confirm. Thanks


    WOW! I am thrilled at the growth of DPs in the US. Yes .. tey all have contributed to advancing the DO profession and they have become respected physicians the world over. And yes, it makes me very proud.
    William G. Anderson, D.O., FACOS
    PastPresident of Osteopathic County Michigan State and AOA

  4. Margaret I Aguwa, DO, MPH, FACOFP.

    Great historic information!! There are, however, so many other impressive Firsts and Achievements not included in this report.

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