Scott, Roland B.

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Roland B. Scott

Physician, medical researcher

Roland Boyd Scott, a major researcher into the causes and treatment of sickle cell anemia, devoted his life to advocacy for victims of this disease. An allergist by training, Scott became an advocate for children with sickle cell disease after seeing many children with symptoms of the disease admitted to the Howard University Hospital. Scott started the Center for Sickle Cell Disease in 1972 funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Among the first black physicians accepted into the American Pediatric Society, he was internationally known as an expert on sickle cell anemia.

Roland Scott was born in Houston, Texas on April 18, 1909. He graduated from high school in Kansas City, Missouri in 1927. He chose to study at predominately black Howard University. His mother felt that even though he was also accepted at the University of Chicago, Howard would provide a more comfortable social environment. In 1935, he married Sarah Rosetta Weaver. They had three children: a son, Roland Scott Jr., and two daughters, Venice and Irene.

At Howard, Scott studied chemistry through his junior year then applied to medical school and was accepted. Alonzo DeGrate Smith, professor of pediatrics in the medical school, influenced Scott's decision to focus on diseases of children. Smith's earliest research was in nutritional diseases, including a study of the use of vitamin D to treat rickets. Scott completed his study of medicine at Howard in 1934.

Scott completed an internship in Kansas City, Missouri, and then decided to focus on a residency in pediatrics, though at the time there was very little interest in specializing in pediatrics. Scott spent four years as a pediatric resident and fellow in Chicago. He served as resident at Provident Hospital, Cook County Hospital, and the Municipal Hospital for Contagious Diseases.

While at the University of Chicago, Scott was interested in the work of Katsuji Kato, a pediatric hematologist from Japan, who published detailed drawings of normal and abnormal blood cells and bone marrow cells. After the Pearl Harbor bombing by Japan, Kato was considered an undesirable alien and forced into relocation. He later returned to Japan.

Returns to Howard University

In 1939, Scott passed the examination of the American Board of Pediatrics. He returned to Howard as a faculty member after he completed postgraduate pediatric training in Chicago. Smith and Scott were the first two black physicians in the United States to gain membership in the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to Carl Pochedly, their applications were first rejected because of race, but they both reapplied and were accepted. Scott was the first black physician to become a member of the American Pediatric Society and the Society for Pediatric Research.


Born in Houston, Texas on April 18
Graduates from Howard University Medical School
Marries Sarah Rosetta Weaver
Completes pediatric residency
Passes examination of American Board of Pediatrics; returns to Howard
Becomes acting director of pediatrics
Produces first sickle cell article
Becomes chairman of pediatrics
Sarah Scott dies
Lobbies Congress and gains passage of the Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act
Starts the Center for Sickle Cell Disease
Retires as director of the center
Ebony names Scott "preeminent authority" on sickle cell
Dies in Washington, D.C. on December 10

In 1939, a full-time assistant professor of pediatrics at Howard University was paid $3,000 per year. Since Scott was married and had a child, the salary did not meet the family's needs. Through a special arrangement, the uni-versity allowed Scott to work part-time as a pediatric consultant. In his work at Freedmen's Hospital, he learned that most parents of children admitted with sickle cell anemia lacked knowledge of the disease. Many children died from complications. Scott began writing about the condition in 1948.

Scott published a number of articles that described clinical findings due to sickle cell disease in infants and children. With a group from his clinic, he prepared exhibits on the disease that were shown at medical meetings throughout the country and sometimes abroad. At first there was little outside financial support for sickle cell studies, due to the fact that the disease was perceived as only affecting blacks. Scott's research showed that blacks are not the only people who have sickle cell anemia. People in Mediterranean, South American, and Arabian countries also suffer from the disease. In 1971, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a grant to establish the Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Disease.

The NIH grant came about due to the Sickle Cell Control Act of 1971. Because of this act, ten centers (in Augusta, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.) were established. The NIH grants were for more productive research and to provide more actual benefit to patients.

In 1945, Scott became acting director of pediatrics, when it was still a division of the Department of Medicine. In 1949, Scott was instrumental in changing the pediatric division to a full department, and he became chairman of the Department of Pediatrics. He remained as head of pediatrics for twenty-eight years. He was director of the Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Disease from its inception in 1971 until his retirement in 1990.

While on sabbatical in 1950, Scott studied allergic diseases at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. When he returned to Howard, he started allergy clinics for children at D.C. General and Freedmen's Hospitals. Scott became board certified in both allergy and clinical immunology.

A prolific writer, Scott wrote or co-wrote more than three hundred scientific reports. His former students, residents, and other trainees have made significant contributions in medical care and education in the United States and in other countries. His pioneer work in sickle cell research resulted in the government developing a national program for research and clinical care.

In an interview with Carl Pochedly of the American Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Scott listed coping with conventional racism in the United States as one of his biggest lifelong problems. He also expressed gratitude and admiration for the support of many friends and organizations and for the encouragement of his mentors, which included Dr. Frederic W. Schlutz, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at University of Chicago; Joseph Brennemann at Children's Memorial Hospital; and Dr. Archibald Hoyne, an expert in infectious diseases at Municipal Hospital for Contagious Diseases. This support allowed him to persevere in his efforts to gain interest and funding in sickle cell research.

Scott traveled widely and received honors for his work in the United States and elsewhere. His honors include the Jacobi Award of the American Medical Association Academy of Pediatrics, pioneer in sickle cell research award from the Advisory Board of the Comprehensive Center for Sickle Cell Disease of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as a special award, according to Pochedly, from the National Sickle Cell Disease Program for "leadership and pioneering efforts in directing national and international attention to sickle cell disease."

Scott died on December 10, 2002, at Washington Adventist Hospital. His memorial service was held at Howard University on December 17, 2002.



Bernstein, Adam. "Roland B. Scott Dies: Sickle Cell Researcher." Washington Post, 12 December 2002.

Jones, Marvin T. "Roland B. Scott, M.D.: A Portrait of Dedication." Perspectives: Howard University College of Medicine 7 (Winter 1985/86): 1, 8-9.

Pochedly, Carl. "Dr. Roland B. Scott: Crusader for Sickle Cell Disease and Children." American Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology 7 (Fall 1985): 265-69.

                                   Virginia D. Bailey

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Scott, Roland B.

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