Virginia Davis Floyd makes a difference by extending medical care to underserved 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. "The first thing I learned," she says, "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."
Dr. Floyd was born in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, and studied at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, 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, Georgia. 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 (CDC), where she studied the incidence of poliomyelitis in Cameroon.
Returning to the United States in 1979, Dr. 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."
Dr. 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. Today, the clinic continues to serve Palmetto; the staff has grown to four physicians, who now serve the health care needs of almost fifteen thousand residents a year.
After her service in Palmetto, Dr. 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 Medcine 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.
As director of Human Development and Reproductive Health (HDRH) for the Ford Foundation in New York, she leads a team of program officers who provide grants in the United States and overseas, coordinating efforts to combat economic and social marginalization, and promote reproductive health.
Dr. 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 humanitarianone 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."
Known to close friends and family as Ginger, Dr. Floyd now lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia, with her husband and two children. In addition to her professional accolades, Dr. Floyd is also a published poet.