Though three African-American men graduated shortly after OSU’s College of Medicine was established in 1914 (Clarence Alphonso Lindsay, Rudolph Finley and Charles Robert Lewis, all in 1916) it was roughly 30 years later that the College graduated its first African-American woman. She then took that degree and built an amazing military career with it.
The first African-American woman to receive her MD was Clotilde Dent Bowen, who completed her program in 1947. A graduate of Columbus’s East High School, Bowen completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio State in three years, and was accepted into medical school in January 1944. After her graduation, she completed her residency in New York City, and set up a private practice in Harlem.
Later, Dr. Bowen became U.S. Army Col. Bowen, the first African-American physician in the U.S. Army, as well as the first African-American woman Colonel. In 1967, during the height of the Vietnam war, she decided to return to active duty. She became the first African-American woman to direct a military hospital clinic.
Dr. Bowen later completed a second residency at a Veterans Administration hospital in Pennsylvania in psychiatry. Her other achievements include being the first African-American woman to be named chief of psychiatry in two Veterans Administration hospitals and two Army medical centers.
Dr. Bowen was honored with the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit in 1971 for her work to set up drug treatment centers and her efforts to lessen racial conflicts during the Vietnam War. She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974.
The College of Medicine annually holds the Clotilde D. Bowen, MD, Diversity Lecture Series in Bowen’s honor, and last year a need-based scholarship fund was set up in her honor.