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Home | MedicalMakers | Dr. Joycelyn Elders
Color: Yellow and Beige
Food: White Potatoes (Irish potatoes)
Quote: Always do your best, that's good enough.
Season: Spring and Fall
Vacation Destination: San Diego
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 09/20/2017

Medical director Joycelyn Elders was born on August 14, 1933 in Schaal, Arkansas to Curist and Haller Jones. Elders attended Bright Star, a segregated one room school, before she transferred to Howard County Training School in Tollette, Arkansas in 1942. She earned a four-year scholarship to Philander Smith College and earned her B.S. degree in biology from there in 1952. In 1960, Elders earned her M.D. degree from the University of Arkansas. She received her M.S. degree in biochemistry from the University of Arkansas in 1967. In 1978, Elders earned her certification as a pediatric endocrinologist. She then received her D.Sc. degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2002.

After she earned her M.D. degree, Elders began a pediatric internship at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota. She became the chief resident at the University of Arkansas Medical School in 1963. Elders was hired as an associate professor at the University of Arkansas in 1971 and was promoted to the position of professor in 1976. In 1987, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton appointed Elders as director of the Arkansas Department of Health. She then became Surgeon General of the Public Health Service under President Clinton in 1993. As Surgeon General, Elders focused on women’s reproductive health care and promoted sex, alcohol, drug, and tobacco education in public schools. She resigned from that position in 1994 and returned to the University of Arkansas, where she worked as a professor of pediatric endocrinology. In 2002, Elders retired from the University of Arkansas Medical Center. In 2016, the Jocelyn Elders Clinic was established in Kisinga, Uganda. The clinic served students at Garama Humanist Secondary School, and promoted sex education and treated students that suffered from diseases such as malaria.

During her career, Elders published over one hundred academic papers that related to insulin resistance and other endocrine disorders. In 1997, she published her memoir, From Sharecroppers’ Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America.

Elders was the recipient of the Woman of Distinction Award from Worthen Bank in 1987, the Arkansas Democrat Woman of the Year from Statewide Newspaper in 1998, and the Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1991. She was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016. Elders also received the Career Development Award from the National Institute of Health.

In 1992, Elders was elected as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers. She was also a board member for the National Center for Healthy Housing.

Elders and her husband, Oliver Elders, live in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 20, 2017.

Speaker Bureau Notes: