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This 91-Year-Old Doctor, Whose Grandfather Was Born A Slave, Still Practices Medicine In Harlem

Dr Melissa Freeman finished medical school in 1955, and has practiced medicine since 1961. Her grandfather, Albert B. Walker, was born a slave in the 1850s. She attended Howard University College of Medicine. She is one of the first doctors to treat women with opioid addiction.

The Bronx native specializes in internal medicine and was on the front lines in the fight against the opioid crisis by treating female patients with heroin addictions, she told stated to IRIS in an interview published earlier this month.

“It’s wonderful when you see things, such as women who are now able to get their children out of foster placement,” she said. “I find it rewarding to see people making a new life for themselves.”

Freeman shared that her grandfather, Albert B. Walker, who was born in Virginia in the 1850s as a slave, was taken away from his mother at a young age, ABC7 NY reported. After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Walker returned to his mother and later moved to New York.

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According to an interview with New York Amsterdam News, Freeman obtained a medical degree from Howard University’s College of Medicine. In the interview with IRIS, she shared that she knew early on she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. She also shared some of the obstacles she faced on her journey to becoming a doctor.

“There were four women in a class of about 150 students,” she said. “It was very difficult for women to get accepted into medical school. In one of the places that I did training, that particular director of medicine would not take women.”

Freeman also shared the importance of being a woman of color in the medical field.

“I feel it’s a necessity for a woman of color to be practicing with my people because of the disparities in care that they sometimes face,” she said. “Unfair advantages been taken of people of color in treatment. I feel that I would like to continue practicing as long as I can and make a dent in the people I see.”

When asked about retirement, Freeman told ABC7 NY “I’m not ready yet.”