Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People: Local Doctors

BOND: Yes, what about community figures, people not in the school but people in Lynchburg? Were there other people who impacted you, either personally or who were pointed out to you as people worthwhile of copying and emulating?

PINN: Well, I ended up in medicine, and I often go back to the few doctors we had, the few black doctors we had in that town who really set an example for me. I think one of the people that I most admired was a Dr. Ralph Boulware, who was a good friend of my parents but was our family’s family doctor. And it just seemed to me that when he came to take care of my sick relatives, everybody felt better when he left. And he was always so pleasant and he was always there. And I watched as he went out on these late night calls or during the day, and I just so admired what he was doing and how he was always dedicated to medicine. He would talk about it and he’d talk about making people feel better. And with many people in the community, probably he is the one who most influenced my decision to go into medicine and my decision to become a doctor. And as I got into medical education and saw all the large amounts of knowledge that one has to know and I thought about how maybe we didn’t appreciate how much he really knew as a general practitioner because he had to know everything all the specialists in the universities knew as well as how to deal with people, and yet he always seemed to be there for the community. So I really think of Dr. Boulware as one of my favorite people who really served as a role model and mentor for me and who really set an example about serving the community, not just as a doctor but being there for advice and providing leadership and hope.

BOND: And the fact that he was a man and you were a girl —

PINN: Yes.

BOND: — that was no disconnect for you, that you could do what he was doing?

PINN: Well, interesting — you know, I’ve been asked about that. I think I knew of a woman doctor in the area, but there were none that I really knew well. And I never — I think it really didn’t hit me then about being a woman and he was a man or the fact that I really didn’t know any real women doctors — well, I’d heard of one or two and I credit my family with the fact that they never pointed that out to me and never said, "Look, you’re a little black girl in a segregated city and most women don’t go into medicine. You’re going to have a hard time getting in." They never told me that so I never realized how difficult it was going to be or the fact that maybe I would be alone much of the early years of my career in terms of being in medicine — being a woman in medicine much less a minority women in medicine. And it didn’t really hit me until my first day in medical school.

But I credit my family with not — my family and my friends, I guess, for not really saying to me, "Look, you know, that’s crazy, you’re a woman, do you really think a woman can be a physician?" I didn’t think that a woman could not be, so it just never struck me and that probably carried me far because I didn’t worry about it until I got in the situation where I was the only.