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Roselyn Payne Epps Bio




Dr. Roselyn Payne Epps was a nationally and internationally recognized leader in medicine, pediatrics, public health, maternal and child health, and women’s health. She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas to second generation educators. At Howard University, she received the B.S., cum laude in 1951, and M.D. with honors in 1955. She completed her internship and pediatric residency at Freedmen’s Hospital, and was appointed chief resident. Dr. Epps earned the M.P.H. degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and the M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. She was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, a member of the American Pediatric Society, Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and Delta Omega public health honor society. She was a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Her public health career began as a well-baby clinic doctor in the D.C. Health Department in 1961. Dr. Epps, through merit promotions, served as Chief of the Infant and Preschool Division, Director of Maternal and Child Health and Crippled Children’s Services, and Chief of the Bureau of Clinical Services. She was appointed the first Acting Commissioner of Public Health for the District of Columbia in 1980. Dr. Epps chaired the task force that developed The Comprehensive Child Care Plan for the District of Columbia.

From 1981 to 1984, at Howard University, as a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Dr. Epps was founding Director of the High Risk Young People’s Project, a community based comprehensive health and social services for high risk youth ages 15 to 24 years of age funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. From 1984-89, she was Chief of the Child Development Division, and Director of the Child Development Center at Howard. From 1989 to 1998, as an Expert at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Epps, conceived of and directed the research based pediatric program to prevent the onset of smoking by children and youth. She devised strategies to train 100,000 clinicians in smoking cessation techniques nationwide and delivered the programs in foreign countries. She managed cancer control projects in several of the United States and helped develop programs for racial and ethnic minorities and citizens of Appalachia.

After 1999, The Albert Schweitzer Institute for the Humanities invited Dr. Epps to join five U.S. faculty members in Kyrgyzstan to train former Soviet Union maternal and child health physicians. In 2003, she was one of five international leaders to conduct the Salzsburg Seminar, Digital Inclusion: Confronting the Technology Gap. She served in a volunteer position as a research associate with the Institute for the Study of Digital Inclusion in DeLand, Florida. She was a member of the Board of Directors of Mutual of America and Every Child by Two – the Carter/Bumpers Immunization Campaign. At Howard University, she served as the Senior Program Advisor at the Women’s Health Institute. Also, she was a consultant to the Department of Pediatrics smoking cessation curriculum grant from the American Legacy Foundation.

Internationally in 1984, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities appointed Dr. Epps to a four-person international team, which evaluated family life education programs and analyzed program sensitivity to women’s issues in six Caribbean nations. In that same year, she served on a team of three health professionals, sponsored by the World Bank; PSI, Inc.; and, Liberia to review primary health care and referral system in rural Liberia. She visited and observed health care delivery systems in Canada, the Dominican Republic. Great Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, the Peoples Republic of China, and The Gambia.

Active in the volunteer community in Washington, DC, Dr. Epps was a leader and founding chair in establishing the Girls Incorporated of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area. She served on the Boards of Meridian International, the Arthritis Foundation, Ford’s Theatre, A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf, the Center for Population Options, the YWCA of the NCA, Homemaker Health Aides and Ohio State University College of Home Economics Advisory Board. She was a continuing member of the Board of Directors of the Washington Performing Arts Society, and served on the steering committee of the Choral Arts Society’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. annual concert. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the International Women’s Forum, The Links, Incorporated, Leadership Greater Washington, Zonta Club of Washington, DC, and several social organizations. She has served as a mentor and advisor to numerous individuals.

As an opinion leader, Dr. Epps frequently presented testimony, made speeches, gave lectures, and was interviewed by the media. Dr. Epps authored or co-authored more than 95 peer-reviewed articles, co-edited 17 scientific chapters and co-edited 14 books and monographs. She co-edited The Women’s Complete Healthbook (Delacorte Press), the award-winning book of more than 700 pages written by 37 medical specialists for the general public. She made more than 300 presentations on various medical and general topics. The United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) appointed Dr. Epps as a member of the Sickle Cell Disease Advisory Committee and the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on the Rights and Responsibilities of Women. She also served as chair of the HHS Maternal and Child Health Research Grants Review Committee.

A pioneer and leader, Dr. Epps was the first African-American local and national president of the American Medical Women’s Association. She was the first African American and first woman president of the D.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the first African-American woman president of the Medical Society of D.C. She was national president of Girls, Incorporated, and national and local president of Children’s International Summer Villages. She was a member the Maternal and Child Health Governing Council of the American Hospital Association. Locally, she was Chair of the Board of The Hospital for Sick Children. She was the first African American President of Cosmos Club. As a member of the National Medical Association since 1961, Dr. Epps served in many capacities for the pediatric section including chair, 1977-1979. During the NMA focus on the International Year of the Child, Dr. Epps was D.C. coordinator of the NMA National Immunization Program (NIP), and represented the organization on a NIH task force. She has served as conference organizer and moderator of the NMA National Conference on Reducing Infant Mortality and Teenage Pregnancy, Indianapolis, IN. Since 1993, the Community Medicine Section of the NMA has organized the annual, Roselyn Payne Epps, M.D. Symposium.

Dr. Epps’ more than 60 honors include: The Federal Woman’s Award; The Elizabeth Blackwell Award; the W. Montague Cobb Institute/National Medical Association Lifetime Achievement Award, several honors from NIH, Howard University, the District of Columbia Government, and the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association. The Council of the District of Columbia declared February 14th, 1981, as “Dr. Roselyn Payne Epps Day”. She was presented the key to the city of Indianapolis. Dr. Epps was inducted into the D.C. Women’s Hall of Fame; inducted into the Washington, D.C. Hall of Fame; presented the Society for Women’s Health Research’s first Advocacy Award; and Howard University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Also, she is profiled in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Women’s Museum in Dallas, TX and the National Library of Medicine exhibit, Celebrating America’s Women Physicians. She received a Dr. Dorothy I. Height Leadership Award. She was honored by the National Association of Minority Medical Educators, Northeast Region, among others. Dr. Epps’ biography is included in African American Medical Pioneers (Betz), The History Maker’s Project, 11 versions of Who’s Who, including Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, and Two Thousand Women of Achievement (Worldwide).

For 59 years, she was married to classmate, Charles H. Epps, Jr. M.D., orthopedic surgeon, former Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, Dean of the College of Medicine, Vice President for Health Affairs, and Special Assistant to the President at Howard University. They resided in Washington, D.C. Of their four children, two of their sons and their daughter, Charles Harry, III (dec.), Roselyn Elizabeth (Washington, DC) and Howard Robert (Houston, TX) earned M.D. degrees and their son, Kenneth Carter (Chandler, AZ), earned an M.B.A. They have two daughters-in-law, Carrie Roberts and Phyllis Griffin, Esq. and four grandsons Nathan, Robert, Griffin, and Campbell.

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