Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D., was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1898. When her mother became ill, Dorothy went to live with a great-aunt in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from Tufts Medical College at the age of 37, and as with many black health care professionals during that time, experienced racial tension and discrimination. She was denied access to predominantly white hospitals. Not allowing that obstacle to deter her ambitions, she moved to Washington, D.C., to seek more opportunities. She interned at Freedmen’s Hospital (Howard University Hospital.)
Ferebee joined the faculty of Howard University. From 1934 until 1941, she was the Medical Director of the Mississippi Health Project, a rural health initiative that was deemed as being one of the most remarkable examples of voluntary public health work conducted by black doctors during the Jim Crow era. She also served as a professor at Howard University Medical School and as Director of Howard University’s Health Services while maintaining her private medical practice.
In 1930, Ferebee married a dentist, Claude Thurston Ferebee. He was a professor at the Howard University College of Dentistry. Dorothy and Claude were parents to twins, Dorothy and Claude Jr.