100-year-old retired VA podiatrist continues to serve the public


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Dr. Mildred Dixon is celebrating her 100th birthday today.

From 1957 to 1985, Dixon worked as a podiatrist for the VA. Just three years after VA officially ended racial segregation in its hospitals, Dixon was hired as the first woman and full-time podiatrist to work for VA.

Dr. DixonDixon worked primarily at the VA medical center in Tuskegee, Alabama. There, she was credited with establishing Tuskegee’s first podiatry residency program. She also worked part-time at VA facilities in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa.

Up until 1954, VA’s Tuskegee hospital was a segregated hospital for African American Veterans. It was operated that way for 31 years. Despite VA having ended segregation in 1954, few African Americans landed jobs in the medical profession at VA facilities until after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In addition to her many other “firsts,” Dixon was the first female and black American to be inducted to the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine Hall of Fame, and the Alabama State Citizens Hall of Fame in 2010. She is a lifetime member of the American Podiatric Medical Association. When VA established a podiatric department in 1976, Dr. Dixon established the first medical residency program in podiatry at the Tuskegee VA Medical Center.

Dixon

Photo credit: Mildred Dixon, D.P.M., April 22, 2010, Tuskegee News

Dixon’s passion for podiatry and health care led her into leadership roles as a lifelong learner, health advocate, mentor and educator.  She founded the American Association of Chiropodists-Podiatrists, served as its president, and became actively engaged in the field’s professional organizations, including the American Public Health Association. Dixon hosted many clinics and seminars to benefit medical staff, patients, and the public. She published articles in journals and went on to serve as president for the Association of Podiatrists in Federal Service and the National Podiatric Medical Association. She traveled broadly–to China, India, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and West Africa–to observe health conditions on an international scale and in 1982 she presented a paper at the International Congress of Podology conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dixon attended and graduated from dental nursing school in East Orange, New Jersey, where she grew up. While working as a dental assistant, she was exposed to the field of podiatry and decided to pursue that career field. She graduated from the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine, then the Ohio College of Chiropody, in 1944. A position as the Dean of Women with the Tuskegee Institute prompted her move to Tuskegee. She worked at the school, which is now Tuskegee University, until she was hired by VA.

While at the Tuskegee Institute, Dixon met her husband. They had two children together.

Mildred Dixon

Dr. Dixon pictured with Julia Washburn, Associate Director for Interpretation, Dept. of Interior, National Park Service and Denise Dixon.

Dixon has been volunteering for the National Park Service for decades, educating her community and contributing to the preservation of Tuskegee’s history.

Dixon’s daughter, Denise, worked with VA and the National Park Service to plan a ceremony in recognition and appreciation of her mother’s achievements and public service, as well as her 100th birthday. The ceremony was held today at the Tuskegee VA Medical Center with the help of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, National Park Service and the American Association of Retired Persons.

“I can’t wait to see the look on my mother’s face. I know she’ll say, ‘Is this really for me?’,” said Denise Dixon.

Mildred Dixon still lives in Tuskegee with her daughter in a house built by students of the Tuskegee Institute, where she has lived for several decades.

“I know she will volunteer for a long as she’s able. She’s a busy bee. She amazes me,” said the proud daughter.


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Author

Meagan Heup

Meagan began working for VA in the Office of Public Affairs in 2010. Since then, she has worked as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Media Relations.

Comments

  1. Debra Strother    

    Truly inspiring. In a day and time when we are so consumed by negative news, it’s so good to see this story of a beautiful, strong and giving Black woman. God bless Dr. Dixon and thank you for your service.

  2. B. Weeks-Marshall    

    This story was inspired. Doctor Dixon is a marvel, especially at a time when segregation was so rampant, even within government agencies, such as the Veterans Administration. To achieve so much with grace and dignity is something everyone can learn from. Dr. Dixon is indeed the best America has to offer and, as an USAF veteran, I am proud to know she shared her best with with the veterans of the United States. How I wish and pray there were more Dr. Dixons throughout the VA system.

    Happy 100th Birthday, Dr. Dixon. You are beautiful and truly blessed. May God grant you many more happy healthy years with your family and friends.

  3. Tammy Hansen    

    Happy birthday Dr. Dixon. What an amazing life story so far! You are the type of person I’d love to sit down with a cup of tea/coffee and have a great conversation. You have much to teach the world, if only they listen. I wish you many more birthdays! Thank you for such an inspiring story on such a wonderful woman.

  4. Karen Wall    

    WOW that is waaaaayyyyyy cool!

  5. Maime Carolyn Robinson Omari    

    So beautiful and wonderful that you are doing what it takes to show LOVE to all the world. I will try to follow your step by moving on and doing Volunteer work, You are an inspiration to me. Vet., I was not but an Army brat, mother of a Marine, sister of 2 Airmen, and a sister of a soldier. I wish I could have join the Army but I could not weight enough. Lot of Love to you and ALL the Vets.

  6. Vivian Allen    

    Thank you for all that you endured so many can recognize your accomplishments. You have made a great difference and many will never know your struggles. However, I understand more than you know. God has truly blessed you and I thank him for your wonderful life. Keep on keeping on!

  7. Sharon Smith    

    Congratulations and Thank You! You are my inspiration

  8. Mark Bush    

    Happy birthday Dr. Dixon!,
    When I was working as a Nurse Assistant in the VA hospital in Fort Wayne IN., I had as a patient one of the Tuskegee Airman. He told me there were many Tuskegee Airman squadrons and educated me on the importance and the contribution of those brave men. Seems Tuskegee has also spawned some amazing women. Your story and the many stories of bravery in the face of ignorance have and will continue to make it possible for a man of color or a woman to be able to hold the nations highest office… and you helped make that happen.
    Thank you for your contribution.

  9. Arthur L. Brown Sr.    

    Dr. Dixon, my wife is the Vet. and she showed this story to me as it has been an accomplishment for your whole life to rise above the petty ______ FILL IN THE BLANK of this world. You have been serving in Podiatry as long as I’ve been living!
    My dear LADY you are Blessed, a Blessing, and an inspirration to those that have a chance to read this story and/or be around you!

  10. Gary Walker    

    What a great person and what a great story. Thank you for your service!

  11. Jose Rodriguez    

    Congratulations on your dedication to serving veterans. Wish other medical staff in the VA system fallow your example.

    May you continue to be blessed with many more healthy birthdays.

  12. Christie maerker    

    Thank you for your persistence and dedication to help our fellow veterans.i am a veteran myself and yes the VA needs alot of Tweaking still. People like yourself that do it for the love of the job and to give back to us that are wounded appreciate your heart. Your accomplishments at a time when you had to fight to make it happen is at a loss of words for me. Thank you for the fight. Big hugs and love from this Army veteran.

  13. Erica Pouncie    

    How wonderful and awesome! Thank you for a lifetime of service and being a role model for us all.

  14. Beth McSweeney    

    What an awesome lifetime of service to veterans, and a wonderful role-model. Thank you, Dr. Dixon for your service and dedication!

  15. VA sure has a bunch of idioits working there...they bu    

    I had a successful foot surgery at Wade Park, Cleveland OH……..the idiot student or resident pulled a knot thru my skin getting the stitches out……they brutalize veterans, teaching hospitals are full of ignorant incompetent bums of medicine….the surgeon was great……

  16. Raymond L Girard    

    Thank you Dr.Dixon for your service and your continued service to our country.It was an honor to read your story.Continued longevity and happiness.
    Gratefully,
    Medic RVN

  17. Wilbert Jennings    

    Here is a woman that has managed to be successful during a time of discrimination and still holds her head up. I guarantee you she doesn’t agree with black lives Matters and their killing of innocent cops and whites because they are white. She has been gifted by God with a long and successful life, God bless this lady of color and the color is love.

    1. Ronald Mitchell    

      Shut up and speak for yourself. Stick to the story about a beautiful person who made some major accomplishments in her life time. No need for your injection of racist politics.

      This story is about the lovely, Dr. Mildred Dixon and her many beautiful accomplishments. Oblivious some people still don’t get it !!

      1. Mildred Willadsen    

        Hey this person was not the first to mention racial issues. It was in the beginning of the article.

Comments are closed.