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Dr. Lillian M. Beard

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1943

Medical School

Howard University College of Medicine


District of Columbia

Career Path

Pediatric medicine
Dr. Lillian M. Beard


From my earliest recollections, wanting to become a doctor was my only professional aspiration. I probably began my preparation at the beginning of my formal education, in the first grade. My mother stressed that becoming a doctor meant that I would have to be willing to work hard and excel academically. When I look back and review my report cards from the first grade onward, I realize that I followed her advice. I also realize that I never considered a second professional choice.


Dr. Lillian M. Beard makes house calls. Just like pediatricians in earlier decades, she takes time to advise parents on child rearing, development, and nutrition. But Dr. Beard uses today's mass communications technologies—television, the Internet, and print media—to reach her patients in their homes. Though Dr. Beard still values the one-on-one relationship with patients in her pediatrics practice, she also sees herself as a health educator, with the ability to reach millions of people at once.

Lillian Beard always wanted to be a physician. In her teens she traveled nearly two hours each way to school, one of five African American students in a class of 1,055 at Milwood High in New York. Following her undergraduate work at Howard University, she applied to stay on in the College of Medicine. When she received her M.D. degree from Howard University in 1970, Dr. Beard was one of fifteen women in a class of 100.

Dr. Beard's ties to Howard have continued, as from 1979 she has been an assistant professor there. She is also on the teaching staff of the George Washington University School of Medicine. In 1979 Dr. Beard was chosen from over 53,000 nominees and named one of the ten Outstanding Young Women of America. Since then, she has earned countless additional honors and awards including the 1998 Global Initiative for Telemedicine Award of Merit, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame award, and numerous awards from the American Medical Association. An additional career highlight came in 1993 when President Bill Clinton quoted Dr. Beard in his speech on health care to the U. S. Congress. Dr. Beard is listed in Who's Who in America and was one of twenty-eight women featured in the 1998 publication, Women of Courage: Inspirational Stories of African-American Women.

Dr. Beard has appeared as a health expert on television news programs such as Good Morning America, CNN's Health Accent, ABC's Home Show, Fox After Breakfast, and Everyday with Joan Lunden. Her advice columns include the online "Ask the Experts" page of and in print, through Good Housekeeping's "Ask Dr. Beard." Since 1995, Dr. Beard has served as national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing the academy's 48,000 members on issues relating to the health and welfare of children and adolescents.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Since there were no physicians in my family, I had no template. It was my good fortune not to realize or recognize obvious obstacles. Upon reflection, the first big hurdle could have been lack of any financial backing (money). I clearly understood that academic successes would be my ticket to college. I knew that although my single mother's two jobs provided a small but comfortable home, piano lessons, local excursions and special treats for my younger sister and me, there were no extra dollars to save for college. Fortunately, academic success was rewarded with scholarships.

Gender could have been another obstacle. With my mother as my example, I did not realize being a woman could be an obstacle. My mother graduated from college when I was three years old. She opened and operated a successful business and became the first independent businesswoman I encountered. Race is probably the continuing challenge. Thanks to the racial divide, as a Black American, I clearly understood, from childhood, that I would be judged by a different standard. More would be expected from me by both races, but for different reasons. I always felt that I had to excel to earn the place I felt I deserved in academic circles and to maintain the pride of my community.

How do I make a difference?

It's my goal to make a difference in the lives I encounter each day. Each new day is an opportunity to contribute to someone else's life. As a physician, I have a unique role of trust. I am a healer, a counselor and an educator. The information and advice I give may alter one's choices and chances. I know that my words and deeds not only provide caution and comfort, but they mold lives. I hold this position of trust in the highest regard as I strive to make a difference.

Who was my mentor?

My mother, Woodie McLean, is still my primary mentor and my original role model. My professional mentors, in most instances have been male. Dr. Claude Walker, now deceased, was a Washington, D.C. family practice physician, who from the moment we met when I was a freshman college student, and a patient, encouraged my dream of becoming a physician. He gave his time, professional services, occasional meals, donated books to me, and allowed me to shadow him professionally one summer. Another important mentor was Dr. Ernest L. Hopkins, an OB/GYN specialist, who had been one of my admired medical school professors. Thanks to Dr. Hopkins, I learned to appreciate the importance of continuing medical education. He encouraged me to submit articles for publication in professional medical journals and my participation and leadership roles in medical organizations. Dr. Hopkins made it possible for me to attend my first national medical meeting during my pediatric residency by sponsoring my registration fees and all travel expenses. It was my good fortune to have these wonderful individuals as mentors and friends.