Jeanne Spurlock, M.D. (1921-1999)

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Jeanne Marybeth Spurlock was a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a writer, and researcher specializing in Black family life. In 1971, she became the first African American and the first woman to win the Edward A. Strecker, M.D. Award for outstanding contributions to the field of clinical psychiatry; in 1988, she was awarded the Solomon Carter Fuller Award for the furtherance of the mental health of African Americans.  In 1994, she won the Alexandra Symonds Association of Women Psychiatrists (AWP) Leadership award. Among her many publications, Spurlock edited Black Psychiatrists and American Psychiatry (1999), and co-wrote with Ian A. Canini, M.D. Culturally Diverse Children and Adolescents: Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment (2000). Spurlock paved the way for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Spurlock was born in Sandusky, Ohio on July 19, 1921 to Frank and Glodene A. Spurlock, the oldest of seven children. In 1940, after a public-school education in Detroit, she entered Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia. She left for lack of funds but soon transferred to Roosevelt University, Chicago and completed her undergraduate degree in 1943. She then entered Howard University College of Medicine graduating in 1947. She interned at Provident Hospital, Chicago followed by a residency in psychiatry at Cook County Psychopathic Hospital.

After her residence, Spurlock went into private practice and was consultant to the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 1950, she became staff psychiatrist at the Institute for Juvenile Research, Chicago and the Mental Hygiene Clinic at the Women’s and Childrens’ Hospital, Chicago.

In 1953 Spurlock undertook adult and child psychoanalytic training at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and seven years later in 1960, she became Chief of the Psychiatry Clinic at Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital. In 1968, Spurlock became Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1971, she served as Deputy Medical director for the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Spurlock’s professional memberships included the American Women’s Medical Association, American College of Psychiatrists, Black Psychiatrists of America, National Medical Association, and Physicians for Human Rights. During the 1960s, she provided medical care to civil rights workers in Mississippi and Chicago.

Jeanne Spurlock died in Washington, D.C. on November 25, 1999 at the age of 78. She is interred at Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit where a memorial service was held on December 1, 1999. In 1999, the American Psychiatric Association established the Jeanne Spurlock, M.D. Minority Fellowship Achievement Award; in 2000, she was posthumously awarded the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal by the American Medical Women’s Association.

Spurlock’s papers (1923 to 2000) are held in the District of Columbia Africana Archives Project at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, Washington, D.C.