Lucy Oxley was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to a teacher and Harvard–educated Episcopal minister. She relocated to Cincinnati as a toddler, graduated from Woodward High School at 16 and enrolled at the University of Cincinnati as a pre-medical student.
Miss Oxley earned a Bachelor of Science in 1933 and applied to the School of Medicine, accepted only due to pressure from her father – the rector of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in the West End who had some influential friends.
Dr. Oxley earned a Bachelor of Medicine in 1935 and ranked among the top fifteen in her class. She completed her internship at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, DC, because no other institution would accept her. She joined her classmates back in Cincinnati in 1936 to receive her medical degree and was the only one of her contemporaries to pass the national medical boards.
Unable to get admitting privileges at any of the city’s hospitals, Dr. Oxley served as the medical director for student health at Bennett and Wilberforce Colleges. In the 1940s, she returned to the Queen City and started and seeing patients at an office in the West End and working as a cancer researcher.
Dr. Oxley returned to full-time practice in the 1950s and built a medical building in Walnut Hills. For more than 40 years, she treated patients of all races and delivered thousands of babies. Dr. Oxley was an accomplished musician and an avid gardener. She was a devout Episcopalian and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She died of lung cancer in 1991 and was survived by one daughter and four grandchildren.
Dr. Oxley came from a family of physicians and took immense pride in her family’s legacy. Her father’s brother, George, was the first African-American student at the UC College of Medicine but left the school in 1921 after having trouble with one of his professors and received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College.
George’s brother, James Oxley, M.D., received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh, and the two practiced in Harrisburg. A third uncle, Ralph Young, M.D., graduated from Howard Medical College and was the first African-American staff physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The history of medical care for Black Cincinnatians is quite interesting. According to the Cincinnati Medical Association, the first Negro to practice medicine in Cincinnati was L.F. Buckner from 1870-1907. He did not attend medical school but instead cared for white physicians’ patients and learned by observation.
Around 1890, Dr. Frank Johnson was the first Negro physician to practice in Cincinnati who graduated from a medical school. It was not until the 1940s that Negro physicians who had also completed residencies began to practice in Cincinnati. A few names Cincinnatians might recognize from that era are Dr. Hale, Dr. Pryor, Dr. Hough, Dr. Darden, Dr. Buford and Dr. Cann.
Dr. Lucy Oxley | African American Resources | Cincinnati History Library and Archives (cincymuseum.org)
CMA History Speech | Cincinnati Medical Association
Dr. Lucy Oxley | Walnut Hills History (walnuthillsstories.org)
Lucy Oxley MD: ‘A pioneer and servant leader’ | Source
Dr. Lucy Oxley was a medical trailblazer – The Cincinnati Herald
The First 28, graciously sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, celebrates Black Cincinnatians who were the first in their fields. Each day during Black History Month, we will celebrate athletes, artists, business leaders, civil rights activists, educators, physicians and politicians.
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