“I became interested in medicine when I was an undergraduate. A wonderful adviser of mine took me under her wing and I went on from there, taking a biomed program in the summers to prepare for Meharry. What I like most about being a doctor is taking care of the babies, of watching them grow up.”
“THE SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY BASED HEALTH CARE...”
“Personally, we have come to regard her as a warm and caring physician with good working relations with people at all levels,” says Ben Weinstein, executive director of the local Tuscaloosa chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America of Dr. Lucy N. Culpepper.
“Many of her original patients are now bringing their children to see her as their first doctor, who they know as a kind and gentle soul. I am pleased to have such a person as part of our executive team,” declares Deborah Tucker, CEO of Whatley Health Services, of Culpepper.
These are but two of the numerous, heartfelt testimonials supporting Culpepper's nomination by Representative Artur Davis [D–AL–7] as a Local Legend of Medicine. Clearly, Lucy Culpepper has made an indelible mark on the West Alabama community she has served since her arrival in 1980 as a newly–minted pediatrician in the National Health Service Corps, attached to the West Tuscaloosa Community Health Center.
Despite being born to humble circumstances in rural Thomasville, in Clarke County, Culpepper excelled in her studies throughout school and caught the attention of a professor at Alabama A&M University, who ultimately facilitated her acceptance into Meharry Medical School, from which she earned her M.D. degree in 1977. Following Meharry, she interned in pediatrics at Martin Luther King, Jr. General Hospital, in Los Angeles, where she also completed her pediatric residency prior to joining the National Health Service Corps and going to Tuscaloosa in 1980.
Even though she had her own private practice, from 1982 through 1988, Culpepper's dedication to serving the medically underserved did not waiver and she maintained her working relationship with Whatley, continuing to tend to Whatley's pediatric patients. In mid–1988, she finally chose in favor of Whatley completely, closed her practice and assumed the titles Pediatrician and Medical Services Director she holds to this day.
Like so many community health centers, Whatley has gone through some turbulent times, including near–financial ruin in the mid–1990s. Through it all, Culpepper persevered, enduring salary cuts and community strife to take care of her true concern—her patients. Self–effacing and humble, but tenacious and caring, Culpepper, in the opinion of her colleague and friend Deborah Tucker, has come to "personify the spirit of community based health care."
First and foremost has been her pediatrics. Not only is she a skilled clinician, consultant and training specialist, as Whatley's medical head, she has helped to devise programs and services that have had a dramatic, positive effect on the lives of children and youngsters throughout West Alabama. She has provided free services to area churches, colleges and universities by coordinating health screenings, health fairs and focus group sessions on health issues with college sororities and fraternities.
A member of the Board of Directors of the Tuscaloosa Department of Human Resources, the Tuscaloosa Family Counseling Services and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America–West Alabama Chapter, Culpepper was named Outstanding Black Woman of the Year 1983, and Outstanding Young Women of America.
Joins National Health Services Corps as a pediatrician, serving at the West Tuscaloosa Community Health Center
Joins Maude L. Whatley Health Center —now Whatley Health Services, Incorporated— as Pediatrician and Health Services Director
Meharry Medical College