Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles: Virginia Davis Floyd, M.D., MPH, C'73

Virginia Davis Floyd makes a difference by extending medical care to underrepresented populations around the world and integrating indigenous medical traditions with Western methods. In 1991, as a W. K. Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellowship award recipient, Dr. Floyd studied traditional medicine and indigenous cultures in Egypt, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Guatemala, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Hawaii, as well as Native American Nations in the United States. She continues working with indigenous African and Native American people in the area of traditional medicine and indigenous science.

At the time the award was granted she said, "The first thing I learned is how poorly trained I am as a healer. I am a good technician, but I don't have a clue about healing your soul. It has brought me full circle... Through my studies, I've realized that indigenous knowledge is true science. The award changed my personal and professional life."

A Choice to Change the World

Floyd was born in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, and studied at Spelman, spending her final year at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, with the help of a Charles E. Merrill College Year Abroad scholarship. She earned her Doctor of Medicine at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and pursued a residency program in internal medicine at Emory University Affiliated Hospital in Atlanta.

Midway through her residency program, she visited six African nations as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Task Force on Africa. Sponsored by the Danforth and Ford Foundations, the task force examined the impact of American foreign policy on Africa. She returned to Africa in 1979 as a medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she studied the incidence of poliomyelitis in Cameroon.

Creating Change at the Community Level

Returning to the United States in 1979, Floyd served in the National Health Services Corps in Palmetto, Georgia. Her first patient at the rural health clinic said, "We need someone to take care of us as a community." That statement helped her focus on the links between personal health, community and culture. "I had come out of an internal medicine residency program and I was super trained. It was my introduction to primary care and I loved it."

 Floyd considers her service in Palmetto as the best three years of her life. While waiting for the clinic to be built, she helped dig latrines and wells. Her Volkswagen became a mobile clinic that allowed her to visit those whose names she found on the sick lists in the churches' Sunday bulletins.

A Career Devoted to Service

After her service in Palmetto, Floyd was invited to establish and seek accreditation for a family practice residency program at Atlanta's Morehouse College. She later taught at Morehouse School of Medicine and was its Preventive Medicine Residency Program coordinator, at the same time serving as director of family health for the Georgia Department of Human Resources. For almost a dozen years, she worked to raise the health status of women and children in Georgia by improving immunization rates, nutrition levels, and prenatal care as well as by reducing infant mortality.

In 1987, Floyd  was appointed to serve as acting director of the Southern Regional Project by Georgia Governor Harris for the Southern Governors’ Association and Southern Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. This project coordinated infant mortality reduction activities throughout nineteen states in the Southeast region.

From 1997 – 2002, Floyd served as the director of human development and reproductive health for the Ford Foundation in New York City. She provided leadership for a global team of program officers in grant making activities in the US and overseas. Her program’s funding approach utilized a focus on racial, ethnic, gender and class inequalities to address issues of economic and social marginalization, environmental sustainability and reproductive health.   

Floyd has received numerous awards for her leadership in health policy, advocacy for the under-served, and as a medical educator. In honoring her with the 1998 Phillips Medal of Public Service, the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine stated, "Your service and advocacy for the truly disadvantaged earmarks you as a true humanitarian—one who has brought the benefits of modern health care to the socially and economically disadvantaged. Your work in this country and abroad sets you apart as a leader whose work is not fenced in by state or national borders or continental divides."

Committed to the Atlanta University Center

Known to close friends and family as Ginger, Dr. Floyd now lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia, with her husband, has two adult children, and now works at Morehouse College of Medicine as special adviser to the president, strategic management and government relations. She is also the SIS Professor of Traditional Knowledge for the Spelman Independent Scholar Oral History Project.  In addition to her professional accolades, Dr. Floyd is also a published poet.