Interview, Juanita Pitts

June 19, 1980

Dr. Juanita Pitts grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and Chicago, Illinois, and moved to Rochester, New York, in 1954. Inspired from a young age to become a doctor, Pitts excelled in school, graduating high school early and attending Wilson Junior College in Chicago. She was accepted into Howard University Medical School and worked as a teacher to finance her education. She married a classmate and they moved to Rochester, where she interned at Highland Hospital and completed her residency at Strong Hospital. Pitts went on to complete a neurology residency at Syracuse University. In Rochester, she worked at the Baden Street Settlement and in private practice, focusing on community health and pediatrics. Pitts became involved with community outreach via the Heart Association, Memorial AME Zion Church, and Action for a Better Community.

In this interview, Pitts discusses the impact her father’s death had on her ambition to become a doctor and the challenges she faced as a black woman in the medical field. She recalls being criticized for her desire to become both a doctor and a mother and discusses her experience with racial discrimination in the health care industry, sharing a story about a black man who died while waiting for an available bed in a hospital that prioritized white patients. Pitts also comments on employment and educational opportunities for Rochester’s black residents.

Content Tags


  • 1950s
  • 1960s
  • 1970s
  • 1980s