Catherine McKee McCottry, MD

During the epoch when being a physician was a rare vocational choice for African American women, Catherine McKee McCottry was preparing herself for her life’s work. The daughter of John and Violet Miller McKee, Dr. McCottry was born on February 3, 1921, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her professional preparation and training at Barber Scotia Junior College, a finishing school for young women, in Concord, North Carolina. Her B.S. degree in Biology was earned at Johnson C. Smith University (1941), and she earned her MD from Howard University School of Medicine (1945). The renowned surgeon, Dr. Charles Drew, taught her surgery at Howard University. Dr. McCottry was the first female student from Johnson C. Smith University to obtain a medical degree. She studied and trained extensively and held many residencies. (A residency is a period in which a physician obtains specialized training.) Her specialty was Obstetrics and Gynecology for which she was a resident at Harlem Hospital, New York, N.Y., and Good Samaritan Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. She completed her residency at Providence Hospital, Chicago, Illinois. After finishing her residencies, Dr. McCottry returned to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she practiced medicine from 1946 to 1952, and was that city’s first African American female physician. In 1952, she moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to join her husband, Dr. Turner McCottry, who was practicing medicine there. (They had married while both were medical students.) She set up practice and became the first African American female practitioner in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She and her husband were the first African American medical team in Charleston. Additionally, this outstanding surgeon desegregated the Charleston, South Carolina hospitals in the late 1960’s. For over 40 years, Catherine McCottry helped to educate the community on health matters. As chairperson of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Health Committee, she developed a program for pregnant teenage girls for counseling in prenatal care. She initiated a countywide hypertension program to alert 15-23 year olds on the nature of the disease. She diligently worked with the American Cancer Society in fundraising, sponsoring clinics, and presenting symposia on cancer awareness. For her service, the American Cancer Society presented her with a gold pin. Among her numerous awards are: Medical Alumnae Award from Howard University for 50 years of dedicated service; The Palmetto Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association of S.C. Service Award; an award for being a lifetime member/contributor to the COBRA Sickle Cell Anemia Program, Professional and Human Service Award from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity; The Women Who Make a Difference Award, with letters of commendation from President William Jefferson Clinton, Senator Ernest Hollings, Senator Strom Thurmond, and Congressman James Clyburn. City of Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley issued a proclamation that May 23rd is Dr. Catherine McCottry Day. The Charleston Branch of the NAACP summed up Dr. McCottry’s service to humanity by giving her the Honorary Circle and Trailblazer Award “in recognition for her vision, courage, and fortitude where her contribution has been and remains a glowing example for all.”