Dr. Patience Hodges Claybon: A medical pioneer, advocate for Black med students in Alabama

Born May 24, 1946, Patience Hodges Claybon was a physician and the first African American woman to graduate from the UAB School of Medicine.

When Claybon was a child, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood became the first Black students to attend the University of Alabama.

After graduating from  Burrell Slater High School, she got a scholarship to attend University of Alabama at Birmingham but enrolled at Tuskegee University. There, she met Ernest A. Claybon, whom she eventually married.

At the time, if you were Black and wanted to go to medical school, you had to go to an HBCU. However, there were no HBCUs in Alabama with medical schools, so Black students would have to go out of state.

Claybon enrolled at the UAB School of Medicine, graduating in December 1974. She was the first Black woman in the state of Alabama to finish medical school and one of the first Black woman since Edith Irby Jones to graduate medical school from a PWI in the South.

After graduation, Claybon joined the medical school’s admissions committee to ensure other people, like herself, would get the opportunities she was afforded. She and her husband started practicing in Midfield, Ala.

An addiction psychiatry specialist, she was refused staff privileges at Baptist Medical Center-Princeton on the grounds that her field of specialization was overcrowded at that institution. For a time, she was the only Black female psychiatrist in Birmingham.

She specialized in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating people suffering from impulse control conditions related to addiction. As a substance abuse expert, she was trained to fully understand the biological science behind addiction.

After she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Claybon continued seeing patients through her fight with the illness. She passed away in January 2019.

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