Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee is the vice president for health sciences and medical affairs and site dean at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
In 1990, Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee became the first osteopathic physician chosen as a Health Policy Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 1993, she became dean of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She joined the New York Institute of Technology in 2001, and is on the National Osteopathic Medical Association executive committee.
Ross-Lee has a bachelor’s in biology and chemistry from Wayne State University and a master’s in teaching special populations. She graduated from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1973.
She is the first African-American female to serve as dean of a United States medical school.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in opening the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at A-State? How did you deal with the issue?
The advantage of establishing an additional site of an existing medical school is that most of the education systems are already in place. However, the one task that must be newly engaged is growing the number of graduate medical education programs and positions. This was our biggest challenge. We visited and continue to visit with many hospitals and hospital systems in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. Those meetings are designed to discuss the benefits of medical education for communities and the resources necessary to deliver high-quality clerkship and residency training programs in their facilities.
Currently, we have facilitated the development of 26 hospital affiliations for clerkship education and about 200 new resident positions with an additional 200 in development.
What impact do you hope the school will have on northeast Arkansas and the Mississippi River Delta?
Arkansas and the delta states have significant and long-standing physician shortages. We are confident that establishing a medical school that has a positive record in 1) producing generalist (primary care) physicians and 2) educating physicians that stay in the communities in which they train will result in the sustained production of physicians who will address the needs of underserved communities in Arkansas and the delta.
The American Osteopathic Association has said the shortage of residencies is a real problem and isn’t limited to Arkansas. Does NYIT have more expansion plans to help address the shortage?
As mentioned above, NYITCOM at Arkansas State is working with hospitals to assess the resources and the potential for developing additional residency programs. While financial support from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is capped for existing institutions, hospitals and health systems without a history of participation in graduate medical education that are facing a physician shortage and underserved communities may apply for GME funding.
Additionally, NYITCOM at A-State (with the support of a grant from the Delta Regional Authority) is developing graduate medical education consortia with hospitals in the delta to facilitate residency training in the underserved communities. The first consortium will include hospitals in Kennett, Missouri, and in Walnut Ridge, Paragould, Pocahontas and Piggott in Arkansas.
How has having Diana Ross as a sister impacted your life?
Diana Ross is my little sister. In a family of six children, I am the oldest and she is the second child. Having successful members of our family created a synergy of success for all of my siblings, my children and my nieces and nephews. We are all proud of her and each other. It is a Ross family legacy to support one another, always. We characterize our family relationship like the Diana Ross song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”