Retired Doctor Explains How She Overcame Racial and Gender Barriers 

English-as-a-New-Language teacher Joy Scantlbury and Pocantico students presented flowers to Dr. Mary Lane Cobb of Tarrytown at the Women’s History Month visit.

Dr. Mary Lane Cobb of Tarrytown, a retired family physician educated in segregated schools in Kentucky, spoke to Pocantico Hills School seventh-graders during Women’s History Month. 

Dr. Lane attended college in Indiana, but wasn’t admitted to her university’s medical school due to gender, racial and geographic quotas. She was the only African-American student in her class when she entered the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia in 1950. 

While it wasn’t common for black women to study medicine in 1950, Dr. Lane said that the trail had been blazed many decades before by the first black physician who started practicing in 1864. 

Dr. Lane’s grandfather, David Lane, was born into slavery and earned his medical degree from Howard University when he was 35. One of his sons, Dr. Lane’s uncle, became a physician in 1914. 

“So I was standing on broad shoulders when at the age of 15, I decided I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “The vivid image of my doctor uncle remains so embedded in my brain that I must conclude that his was the larger influence on me.” 

Dr. Lane, who is married to James Cobb, practiced family medicine and obstetrics in Westchester for 35 years and worked with the County Department of Health as director of women and youth services.  She is a soprano with the Choral Arts Society of Westchester and chairwoman of the Westchester Region NAACP ACT-SO Coalition.

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About the Author: Evelyn Mertens