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Virginia Alexander

Alumna

Contact Information

Virginia Alexander

Biography

Years active at Yale: YSPH Class of 1941

Dr. Alexander is being recognized as a pioneering woman physician and public health practitioner. Born in Philadelphia in 1899, she was only 4 years old when her mother died, and at age 13, her father lost his once flourishing livery stable. She eventually won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and to pay for her living expenses, she worked as a maid, a clerk, and a waitress. Dr. Alexander ranked second highest among medical aptitude test examinees after her entry into the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. African American physicians were discriminated against in many medical institutions, and no Philadelphia hospital would accept her for practical training. She moved to Kansas City for her internship and within a few years, she was back in Philadelphia, running her own community health clinic and serving on the faculty of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. The Aspiranto Health Home was founded in her own home to serve Philadelphia's poor.

In 1941, Dr. Alexander earned her MPH at Yale and accepted a position at Howard University, where she was appointed physician- in-charge of women students. She also ran a private health practice and worked for the U.S. Department of Health. When World War II broke out, physicians from across the country were dispatched to military bases to care for the injured, leaving many groups at home desperate for medical care. Dr. Alexander volunteered for the government and was sent to the coal fields of Alabama to treat miners living in extreme poverty. She died at the age of 49 from lupus.