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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Carolyn Lopez, M.D.

Picture of Carolyn Lopez
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Carolyn Lopez, M.D.

“I remember going to a health fair at a school that was predominantly Hispanic, and one kid told me, 'I look at you and see that your skin is the same color as mine. If you made it I can make it too.' A lot of times we don't even realizing that we're sending a message and serving as both a symbol and a family physician”


Rahm Emanuel



When she was 10, Carolyn Lopez decided she wanted to become a doctor—and by the time she graduated from high school, she even had her specialty picked out. "My high school yearbook says I wanted to become a pediatrician," Carolyn Lopez says today with a smile.

After attending the University of Illinois School of Public Health, Lopez realized she thrived on variety in medicine. "I learned what I liked and what I didn’t like, and at the end of it all it helped me decide that I liked the challenge of being able to figure out the problem from the beginning, which is why I became a family physician instead of a pediatrician."

Hailed as a Local Legend of Medicine by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL-5), Lopez, in 1992, became the first woman and first minority physician elected as president of the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP). In 2002, she became the first woman Speaker elected to the Congress of Delegates, American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). She is currently chairwoman in the Department of Family Practice at Cook County Hospital, and serves as a member of the Chicago Board of Health.

Lopez has defied color and gender boundaries while serving as an example with her accomplishments. "There are still so few women of color in medicine that we get stretched thin," she commented. She regularly attends school health fairs and talks with students. "A lot of times we don’t even realizing that we’re sending a message and serving as both a symbol and a family physician," she said.

She continues to organize workshops focusing on patient care in Illinois as well as other states. In addition, she has served on committees for inner city and urban health issues such as STD prevention and minority health access.

A highly regarded Professor of Family Medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago, she is a sought after advisor and speaker. Lopez was named the Technology All-Star at the Women of Color Award Conference in 2002. In 2004, Crain's Chicago Business' list selected her as one of the "100 Most Influential Women in Chicago."  In the early 1990s, she helped found the Medical Center Chapter of the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

She is a member of the Editorial Board for Family Practice News, and has published on many subjects including the role of primary care in fatal asthma prevention.

"There's a quote by Hippocrates that I believe in," Lopez commented. "It goes like this: 'The health of the people determines the strength of the nation.' I have learned that if we don't solve the problems we're currently struggling with as a nation, like diabetes and obesity, we're not going to be a strong country.

"My mother was right when she said that one of the most important things a physician can do is listen to what their patients are saying and really hear them. It’s only then that we can be really effective in our treatment."



Appointed Assistant Professor (1982-1996), Associate Professor (1996-2004), Professor (2005), Department of Family Medicine, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL.


Appointed Medical Director (1991-1993); Senior Vice-President, Professional Affairs, Chief Medical Officer (1993-1995), Rush Prudential Health Plans, Chicago, IL.


Elected First Woman President, Illinois Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP).


Elected Chair, Department of Family Practice, John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County (formerly Cook County Hospital), Chicago, IL.


Elected First Woman Speaker, Congress of Delegates, American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).


Appointed Member Chicago Board of Health, Chicago, IL.


Elected President, Board of Governors, Institute of Medicine of Chicago, Chicago, IL.




University of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln School of Medicine, Chicago, IL


Family Practice