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Meet 2 doctors who broke barriers in Miami

MIAMI – Meet two African-American doctors who broke down barriers in South Florida in the early 1950s.

Dr. Dazelle Simpson became Miami's first black female pediatrician in 1953 after graduating from the top of her class from Meharry Medical College. The Miami Herald captured the event, its headline reading, "First Negro Woman Doctor."

It was a goal Simpson set as a child.

"I've always wanted to be a doctor since I was four, then I decided I wanted to take care of children," she said. "[I] didn't know the word pediatrician at the time."

But her grandfather E.W.F. Stirrup knew. He was one of Coconut Grove's black pioneers.

"He said, 'Go for it.' He didn't say you can be a nurse. 'I want you to be a doctor so that you'll be independent,'" recalled Simpson.

By Simpson's junior year at Meharry, she had fallen in love with George Simpson, a promising football and basketball player who dreamed of becoming a surgeon.

They married in 1947, and shortly after moved to Miami, where they opened a successful medical practice in Overtown and Liberty City and practiced there for more than 40 years.

George Simpson, now retired, said he'd never forget a patient's request for him instead of one of his white colleagues.

"Asked her when she was getting better why she said that. 'You were the only black one here and I knew you had to be good,'" he said. "The more you do to break down those barriers, the better it is for the general health of the public. I feel good about that. Not my specialty, but always feel good about it."

The Simpsons recently visited Miami Northwestern High School and spoke to students.

"I was immediately inspired," said Elizabeth Clervil. "I mean, I wanted to study pediatrics. I just thought, wow, if she can do it, I can, too."

"They repeated over and over and over 'you can do it. If you see us do it, you can do it,'" said Tytianna Bunch.

Though they have many achievements, the Simpsons are most proud of their 62 years of marriage.

"She's been a partner, a source of inspiration in many areas," said George Simpson. "I'm still in many instances in awe of her whether she knows it or not in many ways."