Miller, Dr. Rosalie Reddick (1925-2005)

  • By Mary T. Henry
  • Posted 2/25/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5659
Dr. Rosalie Reddick Miller was the first African American woman dentist to practice in the State of Washington. She arrived in Seattle with her husband, Dr. Earl V. Miller, the first black urologist in Seattle, and their three children in the summer of 1959.

Dr. Miller was born on December 29, 1925, in Waycross, Georgia, to Dr. S. A. Reddick and Mrs. Coralee Reddick. Her father was a practicing dentist who moved his family to Columbus, Georgia, in the early 1930s because of a better economic future there. She attended the all-black public schools in Columbus and received a BA from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1946.

There was no question that she would become a dentist because her father had told her everyday from the time she could walk that she was going to be a dentist. She enrolled in Meharry Medical College across the street from Fisk and received her D.D.S. in 1951. During this period she gave birth to two children.

Returning to Columbus, she took over her father’s dental practice, and her husband, whom she married in 1947, began a practice of general medicine. During the early 1950s and before the civil rights movement, she and her husband fought discrimination and segregation in the southern city, arousing anger among some of the white citizenry. She was an active participant in the struggle for voting rights and spearheaded a voter registration movement among blacks in the city.

The family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1956, in order for Dr. Earl Miller to pursue board certification in urology while she served as Director of Dental Hygiene at Meharry Medical College. This lead to a move to Iowa City in 1957, where he continued his specialization in urology and she received a certificate in periodontics and later served on the faculty at the University of Iowa teaching dental hygiene.

The Millers chose to locate in Seattle because of the availability of hospital privileges for Dr. Earl Miller. Dr. Rosalie Miller gave birth to her fourth child in 1959, took the Washington State Dental Examination in 1960, and gave birth to her fifth child in 1961. During her stay-at-home housewife period, she served on the board of the League of Women Voters, was appointed to the Forward Thrust Planning Committee, and developed a tutoring project between Franklin High School and Colman School in Seattle.

From 1964 until 1971, she practiced dentistry at the Group Health Dental Cooperative. During the War on Poverty years she received a grant from the department of Health, Education and Welfare to study at the University of Washington. She received a Masters in Public Health in 1972. Her thesis was on the use of indigenous workers as dental health educators.

For the next five years she served as director of dental programs for the Community Health Board of Model Cities. She had an enrollment of 3,000 patients and her program supported transportation for them to dentists, outreach workers' services, complete dental care, and a nutrition facet.

In addition to negotiating contracts with Washington Dental Service for dental care of enrollees, she directed outreach programs to teach dental education to her constituents. She produced audio-visual resources and printed brochures She devised a method to ascertain the levels of dental health in clients based on their visits to dentists for dental care.

From 1976, until her retirement in 1991, Dr. Miller was Assistant Professor of Dentistry at the University of Washington in the Department of Oral Medicine. She directed the vertical group system at the Dental School, a system which was responsible for overseeing approximately 400 students and about 1,500 patients. She monitored inpatient care, designed computer programs to facilitate responsible and appropriate faculty-student patient care relationships and handled department-patient care relationships. She considered herself "the patient’s Ralph Nader." She was a mentor to many of her students and after retirement continued to be a counselor and a source of inspiration to them.

Despite these accomplishments, Dr. Miller was most proud of her more than 50 years of marriage to the same man and for the success of her five children.

Dr. Rosalie Reddick Miller died of cancer on October 17, 2005.


Sources: Mary Henry interview with Dr. Rosalie Reddick Miller, Seattle, Washington, February 2004; "There’s Nothing Wrong with You, It’s Them," Nurture (a publication of the Health Sciences Center Minority Student Program at the University of Washington), May 1980. See also: Jennifer Sullivan, "State's First Black Woman Dentist," The Seattle Times, October 18, 2005 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com).
Note: This essay was updated on October 18, 2005.

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