Skip to Main Content

Ruth J. Temple

Alumna

Contact Information

Ruth J. Temple

Biography

Years active at Yale: YSPH Class of 1942

Pioneer Woman Physician, Educator, and Public Health Practitioner

Dr. Temple is being recognized as a pioneering woman physician, educator, and public health practitioner. She was a community health crusader and the first African American female graduate of Loma Linda University. Her many accomplishments and medical interests include the foundation of a health study club to educate the community on nutrition, sex education, immunization, and substance abuse. Pushing the barriers placed on African American women of the time, Dr. Temple committed herself to community health issues in the city of Los Angeles. Dr. Temple graduated from the College of Medical Evangelists (Loma Linda University) with her MD in 1918. When she began her career, there was not a single medical clinic in East Los Angeles. She and her husband, Otis Lawrence Banks, purchased a six-room house on Central Avenue and turned it into a free health clinic, later naming it the Temple Health Institute. Overcoming the prejudices of the time, Dr. Temple was on the faculty of White Memorial Hospital, teaching white medical students. In 1941, the Los Angeles City Health department gave her a scholarship to attend Yale for a master’s degree in public health. She went on to pioneer the city's public health program and helped to establish the Southeast District Health Center. She was appointed the first health officer of Los Angeles City in 1942 and was recognized as an authority in the field of obstetrics.

In 1983, the East Los Angeles Health Center was renamed the Dr. Ruth Temple Health Center. Dr. Temple died in 1984 at the age of 91.