Johnston County Health Director Dr. Marilyn Pearson Honored By NC Governor

Johnston County Health Director Dr. Marilyn Pearson was among more than 30 North Carolina African American leaders and organizations in health and medicine honored Feb. 12th by Gov. Roy Cooper for their contributions to heal and care for their communities. The honors were made in February, which is Black History Month in North Carolina.

Dr. Marilyn Pearson

Dr. Pearson is the director of the Johnston County Public Health Department and a District 7 Congressional Representative for the NC Medicaid Medical Advisory Committee.

“I am grateful for all of the African American leaders who have served our state through their efforts in health and medicine,” said Governor Cooper. “As we celebrate their achievements, we must acknowledge that North Carolina still has work to do to ensure equitable health systems for all North Carolinians.”

Johnston County Commissioner Patrick Harris, who serves on the Board of Health representing County Commissioners said, “Dr. Pearson is truly an extraordinary professional, a tremendous physician, and a dedicated leader in this county. Her steadfast focus on county residents and their families is beyond amazing, and her tireless efforts make Johnston County a safer and better place. I can think of no better person to lead our county in this difficult and challenging time of a pandemic. I have full confidence that we are in good hands with Dr. Pearson leading the response.”

Reacting to Dr. Pearson’s recognition, Johnston County Manager Rick Hester said, “Johnston County is so blessed and fortunate to have Dr. Pearson leading our public health team. Her leadership prior to the pandemic was impressive – and during the past year it has truly been inspirational. Even during the pandemic – she has always maintained a positive outlook on things. She is an amazing leader – and most importantly – an amazing person.”

Throughout the pandemic, Governor Cooper and top health officials have made equity a top priority. North Carolina has been recognized nationally for state efforts to track data about race and ethnicity in vaccinations and COVID-19 cases. North Carolina continues to reach out to communities of color with focused outreach and ensuring a portion of vaccines every week go to underserved communities.

This year’s honorees include:

• Marilyn R. Pearson, M.D., of Johnston County – Public Health Director and Medical Director for Johnston County; Congressional District 7 Representative for NC Medicaid Medical Care Advisory Committee; 2015 North Carolina Health Director of the Year

• Maude Lee Bryant of Chatham County – Midwife with birthing practices that were known statewide; instructor on traditional birthing to UNC Medical School students

• Emma Dupree of Pitt County – Herbalist and healer; winner of the Brown-Hudson Award by the North Carolina Folklore Society and the North Carolina Heritage Award

• Leonard Medical School at Shaw University – The nation’s first four-year medical school and the first medical school for Black students between Washington, D.C. and New Orleans; over 400 Black physicians trained here

• M.T. Pope of Wake County – One of the earliest graduates of Leonard Medical School and one of the first licensed Black physicians in North Carolina; practiced in Charlotte and later established a practice in Raleigh

• L.A. Scruggs of Wake County – One of the earliest graduates of Leonard Medical School and one of the first licensed Black physicians in North Carolina; the first attending physician at St. Agnes’ Hospital for Negroes in Raleigh; professor at Shaw University and St. Augustine’s University; co-founder of the Old North State Medical Society

• John T. Williams of Mecklenburg County – One of the first Black diplomats in the U.S. under President William McKinley; one of the earliest graduates of Leonard Medical School; one of the first licensed Black physicians in North Carolina

• Joyce Nichols of Person County – First female and first African American female formally educated as a physician assistant; helped to establish the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants

• Ernest Grant, Ph.D., of Buncombe County – First male president of the American Nurses Association

• Kizzmekia Corbett, Ph.D., of Orange County – Led a team of investigators with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in research to find a COVID-19 vaccine

• Dr. William Cleland of Durham County – First African American pediatrician in Durham; ran four well-baby clinics for the Durham County Health Department

• Dr. Frederick Burroughs of Wake County – Raleigh’s first Black pediatrician; City of Raleigh Hall of Fame member; American College of Pediatricians fellow

• Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore of Durham County – First Black medical doctor of Durham; prominent leader in the African-American community

• Dr. Dewey M. Clayton III of Person County – First Black doctor in Person County; civil rights leader who helped filed lawsuits to integrate Person County schools and Person Memorial hospital

• Dr. John Thomas Daniel, Jr., of Durham County – First African American president of the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners

• Thereasea Clark Elder of Mecklenburg County – Charlotte’s first Black public health nurse; integrated Mecklenburg County’s Public Health Department

• Dr. Leroy Darkes of Wake County – UNC internal medicine physician; dedicated the majority of his career to providing care for elderly and senior patients

• Dr. Michelle Bucknor of Wake County – Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealth; leading advocate for social determinants of health and improving health care outcomes

• Eugene Woods of Mecklenburg County – President and Chief Executive Officer of Atrium Health; advocate for protecting and expanding health care coverage for all and achieving equity of care by eliminating disparities

• Dr. Charlene Green of Guilford County – President of Old North State Medical Society

• Rep. Carla Cunningham of Mecklenburg County – North Carolina House of Representatives Member for the 106th District; member of the North Carolina Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services; former hospice nurse

• Dr. Laura Gerald of Robeson County – President of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust; former State Health Director at North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; former public health physician at Robeson County Public Health Department

• Dr. Goldie Byrd of Forsyth County – Director of Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity

• Dr. Charles Johnson of Durham County – First Black professor at Duke Medicine

• Old North State Medical Society in North Carolina – One of the oldest medical societies for African Americans in the United States; formed to protect the rights of African American physicians

• Brigadier General Clara M. Adams-Ender of Johnston and Wake Counties – First woman to receive a MA in Military Arts and Sciences from U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; first African American nurse corps office to graduate from United States Army War College; participant in Greensboro sit-ins

• Dr. Samuel Gray of New Hanover County – One of the first resident physicians at Community Hospital in Wilmington; filed a civil suit against James Walker Memorial Hospital for admitting privileges

• Dr. Alvin Blount, Jr., of Guilford County – First African American in North Carolina to be certified by the American College of Abdominal Surgeons; first Black surgeon admitted to the medical staff of Cone Hospital; litigant of the Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Hospital suit that desegregated hospitals throughout the South

• Dr. William Green Torrence of Buncombe County – Established Asheville’s first Black hospital, Torrence Hospital

• Dr. James F. Shober of Forsyth and New Hanover Counties – First known Black physician with a medical degree to practice in North Carolina; opened his medical practice in Wilmington

• Charlotte Rhone of Craven County – First Black registered nurse and first Black social worker in New Bern; charter member of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses

• Carrie Earley Broadfoot of Cumberland County – Co-Founder and first President of the North Carolina Association of Colored Graduate Nurses; served as Superintendent of Nurses at St. Agnes Hospital

• North Carolina Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in Forsyth County – Founded by five nurses to provide professional development opportunities for Black nurses in North Carolina; advocated for Black nurses’ rights and helped advance health initiatives in Black communities