Black in Time

Med school to honor pioneering black doctors

 

Special to The Miami Herald

This week was Valentine’s Day and this is a love story. Two medical students met and fell in love at the historically black Meharry Medical College. Sixty-five years later, as a couple they are expressing their feelings for their school by allowing Meharry’s National Alumni Association, Miami Chapter, to honor them by raising funds to contribute to the school’s endowment insuring training for future generations of medical doctors. The dinner gala, A Celebration of Legacy Honoring Dr. George A. and Dr. Dazelle Dean Simpson, will be held April 19 at the Hyatt Regency Miami, 400 SE Second Ave., Miami. For ticket and donation information visit meharrymiami.org or call 305.705-3516.

During a recent telephone interview, the doctors Simpson finished each other’s sentences while speaking about their life together and their love for Meharry Medical College. George Simpson first noticed Dazelle Dean during his first year in medical school because of the high grades she was making.

“As a New Yorker I was surprised to hear that someone from the south was making higher grades than me,” he said. “It was a rude awakening when I discovered it was someone from Miami consistently scoring high on the tests. Eventually we started studying and developing projects together and became friends.”

He recalls that they did not date for the first time until junior year. She was surprised one day in the lecture hall stairwell when he abruptly said, “I am going to marry you.” Although he did not get down on one knee as she expected, she did not hesitate to say yes. He said he was to poor too buy her an engagement ring at that time. They married during their final year in medical school. It was a traditional family wedding on Dec. 26, 1949, at Christ Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove. The Rev. Theodore R. Gibson officiated. A native Miamian, the bride is the granddaughter of Coconut Grove real estate pioneer E.W.F. Stirrup.

Doctors George and Dazelle Simpson graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1950. That summer, Dr. George accepted an Externship in Fort Lauderdale with pioneer black physician Dr. James Sistrunk. During the next eight years, he was a surgical intern and resident and later completed two years of military service as a first lieutenant at Fort Dix Army Hospital.

Dr. Dazelle’s commitment to children led her to pursue a specialty in pediatrics. After a residency in pediatrics at Hubbard Hospital of Meharry Medical College, she returned to Miami where she practiced for 42 years (1953-1995). In 1958, he joined his wife in Miami and established his private practice in General Surgery (1958 -1990). To their union were born 3 children, 2 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.

As each continued in private practice, their love of medicine grew to include the Miami-Dade County community. Dr. Dazelle Simpson’s accomplishments include: first board certified black pediatrician in Florida; first woman and first black member of the University of Miami School of Medicine Admissions Committee; first black president, Greater Miami Pediatric Society; president of Florida Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association; vice chairman, Board of Directors, Miami Children’s Hospital; chairman, Pediatric Section, National Medical Association; senior attending physician, Department of Pediatrics; and Board Member, Family Christian Association of America.

Dr. George Simpson was the first black board certified general surgeon in Florida; the first black doctor on teaching staff in General Surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital; a founding member, Jackson Memorial SEIU; medical director and later Chairman of the Board, Economic Opportunity Family Health Center (the primary training ground for family medicine in Miami-Dade County); chairman of the board of Christian Hospital; and an original member, Dade County Community Relations Board.

In addition to their family, practices and community organizations both were passionate about assuming leadership roles in local, state and national organizations to train future black doctors.

Dr. James Bridges, Miami Chapter president of Meharry Medical College’s alumni association says “this is the opportunity for the hundreds of students, patients and co-workers touched by these two medical trailblazers to show appreciation now for the Simpsons to enjoy as they live happily ever after in retirement.”

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, PhD, is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to djf@bellsouth.net.

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