Meharry Medical College honored Nashville's first practicing female physician

Posted at 8:45 AM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 14:49:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville’s first practicing female physician Dr. Josie E. Wells was honored Friday for her lifetime achievements and significant contributions by Meharry Medical College.

She was born in 1876 and was one generation out of slavery. Her father’s carpentry trade earned the family a steady income.

Wells worked early in her life as a nurse, eventually coming to Meharry Medical College. She graduated 1904 and became one of the first three women to graduate from Meharry with a medical degree.

She was also going through school while being a single mother.

Dr. Josie E. Wells
Dr. Josie E. Wells

Wells went on to become the HBCU's first female faculty member and Meharry President Dr. George Hubbard’s administrative right hand. She also opened a free clinic for women and children and was Hubbard Hospital’s first female superintendent.

Meharry library's executive director Sandra Parham was amazed by Wells' contribution when she started her research.

She thinks it only right to honor Dr. Wells forever in the form of a historical marker. In her eyes, she’s the perfect example of Black excellence.


“The Meharry that was built in 1876 with the mission of going out and giving back to the community, that’s the Meharry that we serve. It’s the Meharry that we want the public to know about. That's the history that we want you to know about,” Parham explained.

Meharry Medical College unveiled the new historical marker of Dr. Josie E. Wells on the lawn in front of the former George W. Hubbard Hospital on D.B. Todd Boulevard.

The marker also will serve as a memorial for Dr. Wells. Parham hopes all of Nashville will remember her name and thinks Dr. Wells is someone everyone can look up to.

“To the little girls out there who live in the neighborhood and have no knowledge because of what history were taught in school. Remember, three blocks away there’s a medical school that started in 1876 with a Jose Wells who was just like you, it looked what she did,” Parham said.

Some of Dr. Well’s living family members attended the ceremony.