Recipient Selected for Ellamae Simmons Scholarship to College of Medicine

WASHINGTON—Leah Mitchell, a graduating senior from Chesapeake, Va., with a talent for the violin and a passion for helping others, is the recipient of the Ellamae Simmons, M.D., Scholarship in the Howard University College of Medicine. 

Mitchell, who graduates in May with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from Hampton University, will receive $300,000 over four years to cover all expenses -- tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, education supplies, transportation and incidentals - while at Howard. 

“I feel extremely grateful and blessed,” Mitchell said. “I actually turned down other scholarships to come to Howard. It was my first choice.”

Mitchell, who has conducted research in maternal fetal medicine while shadowing obstetricians and gynecologists, said she wants to become an obstetrician and “hopefully help communities that don’t get as much attention.” 

A member of the Gloucester Institute Emerging Leaders Program, Mitchell had an overall Medical College Admissions Test score far above the national average, and is a leading student.  She has played the violin in several orchestras volunteered at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va.

The scholarship, part of a larger gift, is named after Dr. Ellamae Simmons, a graduate of Hampton and Howard. 

“The College of Medicine is extremely grateful to Dr. Simmons for making it possible for students like Leah Mitchell to be able to attend Howard University College of Medicine,” Dean Mark Johnson said. “Her generous gift not only helps these students and the university, but also serves the global community by helping us continue our legacy of producing talented physicians whose mission is to serve the underserved and erase health disparities.”

Because of Dr. Simmons’ ties to Howard and Hampton, the scholarship is a marriage of the two institutions.  It is available to seniors at Hampton to attend Howard’s College of Medicine.

Ellamae Simmons’ remarkable life story begins with her birth in 1918 in Mount Vernon, Ohio, into one of the only two Black families in that town.  After graduating from high school, Simmons applied to nursing school at Ohio State, but was rejected because the university claimed it could not accommodate black nursing students.

She then enrolled in Hampton and learned for the first time about African-American history and leaders. Simmons received her degree in nursing from Hampton Institute in 1940.  While at Hampton, she met Dr. Rupert A. Lloyd, a surgeon and graduate of Howard University College of Medicine who encouraged her to pursue a degree in medicine.

After completing her degree in nursing, Simmons attempted for about a decade to gain admission to a medical school.

In the interim, she worked for the American Red Cross immediately after Hampton.  She left the Red Cross to join the United States Army Nursing Core and served three and a half years during World War II. When the war ended, went on to get earn bachelor of arts degree in science and a masters of social work degree at Ohio State University, graduating in 1950. 

Eventually, Simmons was accepted to Howard’s College of Medicine, where she earned her medical degree in 1959.

In 1965, Simmons became the first African-American female physician hired by Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, where she worked as an allergist for more than two decades.  Simmons retired as a doctor in 1989.  She now lives in Oakland, Calif.

“I am grateful for the life I have had,” she told the Oakland Post in 2010.  “God has allowed me to serve and as long as I live, god must have something for me to do.”

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