Culture

Meet Dr. Ashley Roxanne Peterson, The Youngest Black Woman To Graduate As An Osteopathic Physician In America

Meet Dr. Ashley Roxanne Peterson, The Youngest Black Woman To Graduate As An Osteopathic Physician In America

She's living our ancestor's wildest dreams!

Meet Dr. Ashley Roxanne Peterson, the youngest Black female to graduate as an osteopathic physician in America, The Bay State Banner reports.

Peterson began her studies at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine at the age of 19, inspired by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, the American School of Osteopathy founder. Still was critical to coining the name in 1892 and growing the practice during a time when osteopathic medicine was thought to be a farce, but he was also an abolitionist who allowed both women and Black students to partake in his classes during the time. 

Osteopathic medicine looks at the body as one interconnected system, focusing more on prevention and external factors impacting one's health. Peterson felt like this branch of treatment was more in line with her beliefs, choosing to pursue it after learning more about her family history. 

"One of the biggest things you can do for your health is to take accountability, by doing some preventative things, such as exercise, lowering your stress levels, taking your medication, vaccines and having screenings like colonoscopies," Peterson said.

During her studies, Peterson discovered that her "ancestors had been unwilling participants in the infamous Tuskegee Study." The 40-year study conducted in 1932 by the United States Public Health Service and Tuskegee University in Alabama involved knowingly infecting 600 Black men with syphilis without their consent to observe the natural history of the disease. 

"I always want to make sure people know that my history and legacy is rooted in the poor and oftentimes hurtful history of American slaves. Sometimes, people are ashamed to say their ancestors were slaves. Quite frankly, I'm not ashamed. My ancestors worked so I can have this dream, and I am their wildest dream," Peterson said.

Peterson graduated at age 26, making history as the youngest Black female osteopathic physician in the nation. Only 5% of practicing physicians in the U.S. identify as Black or African American. Peterson hopes that she can inspire more Black students and young girls to follow in her footsteps. 

"I've had so many people reach out to me, especially young Black women. There was actually a little girl who, this year, was me for Black History Month. That just made me cry because I guess my story is really inspirational to people. I want to see someone else be the youngest Black osteopathic doctor in the country when they graduate. I want to see someone else break records, be they a young black woman or man or whichever race," said Peterson.

Congratulations, Dr. Peterson!

Photo Courtesy of VoyageATL