Justina Ford mural and portrait with baby

7,000 Babies: The Legacy of Justina Ford, MD

On display in the Fulginiti lobby through October 31, 2024.  


Dr. Justina Ford (1871-1952) was the first Black female physician licensed to practice medicine in the state of Colorado. Denied membership in Colorado Medical Society and privileges at Denver General Hospital because she was both Black and female, Dr. Ford instead treated patients out of her Five Points home.  She cared for her patients no matter who they were with an attentive heart, skilled hands, and a mothering mind.  Imbued with an indefatigable work ethic, Dr. Ford delivered over 7,000 babies during her fifty year career as a doctor.    

"it was over forty years ago when I applied for a license to practice medicine in Denver, and I remember the licensing examiner telling me: Ma’am I feel dishonest taking this fee from you, you got two strikes against to begin with. First, you’re a lady, and second you’re colored.  I knew right then I was going to have to fight like a tiger against these things.”    --Justina Ford (1950).

Born to formerly enslaved parents who sought freedom and married in Illinois, Justina Ford had only one ambition: medicine.  She would follow her mother, a midwife, to tend to their neighbors when they were ill and play ‘hospital’ with her siblings … but only when she could be the doctor.  Upon graduation from high school, Justina met and married Reverend John Ford and enrolled in Hering Medical College in Chicago.  Dr. Ford graduated in 1899 and they eventually settled in Denver in 1902.  Reverend Ford would playfully tell people, “Justina and I have all the bases covered in our life’s work. She handles the bodies and I handle the souls.” 

Not only did hospitals refused to accredit or appoint Black physicians at that time, but many hospitals would not treat immigrants or people of color.  Other patients mistrusted these professionals or were unable to afford hospital care.  Ford responded, ““Yet here was a little one about to come onto the scene and someone had to bring it, so why not me?!”  

Sometimes Dr. Ford’s patients would pay her in goods rather than cash, and other times might pay long after they received care.  Ford would often sleep on a cot by the phone so she could answer calls quickly, and all the taxi drivers knew her by name. 

Year after year, Dr. Ford fought for long-overdue recognition from the medical establishment.  Dr. Ford was eventually admitted to the Denver and Colorado Medical Societies in 1950. She received the Human Rights Award from Denver’s Cosmopolitan Club in 1951.  

Dr. Ford continued to treat patients until two weeks before her death on October 14, 1952.  

In 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis declared January 22nd, Dr. Justina Ford Day.  And in 2023, the CU Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant Program (CHA/PA), awarded its first Justina Ford, MD, Endowed Diversity Scholarship. 

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