As a teenage mother, Laurie McLemore was told she would not be able to become a physician. Despite the lack of encouragement she received from academic advisors, and the challenges of raising a family whilst building a career, she went on to complete premedical training with honors and was offered a scholarship to attend medical school.
Laurie McLemore attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she recalls being ignored by fellow medical students. One day, for example, when she sat down for lunch with some students, they all got up and went to another table. She was a grandmother by graduation. While in residency she pursued opportunities in the community, giving talks on American Indian health issues. As a senior resident she received the Mead Johnson Award, one of only fourteen given annually to outstanding family practice residents.
In the 1980s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only recognized two American Indians with AIDS. At that time Dr. McLemore was the first to make a culturally based national directory of resources for American Indians with AIDS. She organized a number of AIDS awareness events with little or no funding, and managed to reach college-age American Indian students from a hundred different tribes and from thirty-three states. Some were from remote areas in Alaska, others from the floor of the Grand Canyon. In 2002, the CDC reported that, as of June 1998, there were 1,848 American Indians with AIDS.
As of 2002, she was working at W. W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on her final year of a five-year service payback with the Indian Health Service. Dr. McLemore is committed to her promise to serve her people.
Dr. McLemore currently serves on the AIDS education advisory board for the Association of American Indian Physicians. She is also on the board of Becoming an Outdoor Woman and the Tulsa Speech and Hearing Board, which serves the deaf community. She believes, in her words, "that each American Indian person can make a huge impact on public health."