The legacy of a trailblazing doctor who broke racial barriers is being commemorated in Connecticut. According to the Stamford Advocate, Dr. Joyce Yerwood—the first Black woman physician in Fairfield County—will have a street named in her honor.
Yerwood was a true pioneer in the realm of medicine. Born in 1909, the Texas native was inspired by her father—one of less than 20 Black physicians in the state—to pursue a path in the medical field. Along her journey, she endured overt racism and sexism. However, her passion for serving others and addressing inequities in healthcare outweighed the obstacles.
A graduate of the Austin-based Samuel Huston College in 1928, Yerwood continued her studies at Meharry Medical College alongside her sister Connie who also aspired to become a doctor. The sisters were the only two women in their first-year program at the school.
After graduating from Meharry Medical with honors in 1933, Yerwood completed her residency in Philadelphia. She later started her own practice in Port Chester, New York. After spending 18 years in Westchester County, she moved her office to Stamford, Connecticut. Yerwood’s move to the city was historic as she became the first African American woman physician to serve the community. With a career that spanned five decades, Yerwood used her practice to provide quality medical care for low-income families. Her impactful work sat at the intersection of social justice and health equity.
Beyond her influence in healthcare, she was a driving force for community engagement and empowerment. In 1943, she founded a performing arts space dubbed the Stamford Negro Community Center—now known as the Yerwood Center—to create educational and cultural programs for Black youth. She and her husband, Dr. Joseph Carwin, also contributed to the cultivation of the NAACP’s Greenwich Chapter.
Yerwood died in 1987, but her legacy lives on through generations of Black physicians using their work to address systemic disparities within medicine. Elected officials in Stamford recently voted unanimously to recommend the Board of Representatives advance measures to name a stretch of Fairfield Avenue—at the intersection of West Main Street and Richmond Hill Avenue—“Dr. Joyce Yerwood Way.”
News about the street naming comes three years after South Carolina honored Dr. Matilda Evans—the state’s first Black woman doctor—with a historical marker. Yerwood’s family expressed excitement about the upcoming street renaming that will pay homage to the visionary who is embedded in the fabric of Stamford’s history.
“As I grew older, I became aware of how important my grandmother was to the Stamford community,” her granddaughter Joyce Carwin shared at a past event. “She was fierce and fearless. She did not let the color of her skin or her gender stop her.”
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