With a longstanding interest in science and biology, Jessie Lee Sherrod, MD, earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Tougaloo College in 1971 and her Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School in 1975, becoming the first student from Tougaloo College to attend Harvard. Joining the University of California Los Angeles, she completed an internship, residency and fellowship before earning a Master of Public Health in 1980. Dr. Sherrod began her career in 1982 as a public health commissioner with the Los Angeles County Public Health Commission and then spent two years as a visiting assistant professor of pediatrics and infectious disease at the UCLA Medical Center from 1987 to 1989.
In 1988, Dr. Sherrod was recruited to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services as the chief physician, hospital epidemiologist and director of infectious disease control. Her first order of business was working with one of the department’s affiliated hospitals to decrease its nosocomial infection rate, and she later rewrote the infection-control manual for a 400-bed hospital with roughly 4,000 employees. During this tenure, she furthered her education and received a certificate in health care management from the medical management and leadership program at the University of Southern California in 1997. Dr. Sherrod retired from the medical field in 2001.
Alongside her primary responsibilities, Dr. Sherrod notably founded the Association of Black Women Physicians in 1982. Since its inception, they have provided scholarships to more than 500 students and done considerable work to combat racism in the medical field and promote health equity and diversity. She remains active with the association, doing community outreach and mentoring up-and-coming professionals. Additionally, she chaired the pediatric section of the National Medical Association from 1992 to 1998 and served on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices from 1995 to 1998. Dr. Sherrod is also a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a co-founder of the Black Health Trust.
Attributing much of her success to her family and mentors, Dr. Sherrod considers her greatest achievements to be establishing the Association of Black Women Physicians and publishing the first-ever study on compliance and immunizations in three settings in 1984. As she looks toward the future, she hopes to publish a history of the Association of Black Women Physicians and continue mentoring young Black women who are pursuing careers in medicine. For her excellence, Dr. Sherrod was featured in “Against All Odds: Celebrating Black Women in Medicine” in 2015 and was named Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women in 2010.