Justina L. Ford, MD was Denver’s first licensed black woman physician. After graduating from the Hering Medical College in Chicago in 1899, she worked briefly at an Alabama hospital where she was a director for 2 years, but the community still wouldn’t recognize her as a physician. On her arrival in Denver she learned that Denver General Hospital accepted neither black patients nor black physicians. So Dr. Ford took her practice on the road where she served Spanish, American Indian, Chinese, Greek, Japanese, “plain whites” and “plain colored” patients.
For 50 years, Ford practiced medicine and treated needy patients from her Five Points home. She specialized in gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics. Ford treated patients from all ethnic backgrounds. She believed strongly in natural childbirth.
Ford’s mother was a nurse, and a s a child, Ford loved to play hospital, and made up names for illnesses. She said in an interview that she would “dress up the chickens for dinner just to take a look at the insides and see what they were like.”
Dr. Ford’s fees were more than reasonable: $15 – $20 for prenatal care and delivery. Some patients couldn’t afford that and ended up paying her in produce, chickens or household items.
After she had been in practice 33 years, she was finally able to become a member of the faculty at Denver General but not practice there. She was never granted membership in the American Medical Association. She was finally admitted to the Denver and Colorado Medical Societies in 1950, two years before she died.
In her 50 year career in Denver, she delivered over 7000 babies.