Main Header Container

Dr. Joycelyn Elders School of Allied & Public Health

In response to the troubling state of health in Arkansas, the Philander Smith University of Trustees approved the establishment of the Dr. Joycelyn Elders School of Allied and Public Health. The school proposes to deploy innovative strategies to address minority health disparities and to strengthen the pipeline of highly qualified, culturally competent nurses, rehabilitation counselors and allied health practitioners in Arkansas. 

Meet Our Inspiration

Dr. Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schall, Arkansas during the greatest economic downturn in America's history - the Great Depression. The oldest of eight children of a poor sharecropping family, she envisioned a future for herself that her peers in the African ­American commtmity could only imagine. Home was a three-room cabin that lacked an indoor toilet and electricity. One of her earliest memories was being taught to read by her mother who had an eighth grade education. She graduated as valedictorian of her high school class, and enrolled at Arkansas' premier Historic Black College, Philander Smith College, where she was supported by scholarships from the United Methodist Women. Initially, college looked doubtful for Dr. Elders as her father did not want to let her attend college. Persuaded by her grandmother, Mr. Jones changed his mind. Dr. Elders' family picked cotton to earn the $3.43 for her bus fare to Little Rock. She was the first in her family to earn a college degree. Dr. Elders completed the requirements for the degree in three years. While pursuing a degree in biology, she changed her name to Minnie Joycelyn Lee Jones. After earning her Bachelor of Science Degree, she began work at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Milwaukee, WI. She later joined the United States Army in 1953. 

After three years working as a physical therapist, she was accepted to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School, earning her Medical Degree in 1960. Following a Residency in Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas Medical Center, Dr. Elders earned a Master's Degree in Biochemistry in 1967, at the age of 34.