An Afternoon with Dr. Lucy Ozarin, AMWA’s Oldest Member
By Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH
Last November, I had the honor of meeting AMWA’s oldest member, Dr. Lucy Ozarin, through an introduction from AMWA past president, Dr. Leah Dickstein. Dr. Ozarin is a retired psychiatrist, public health officer, and naval officer. At the age of 101, she is still reading medical literature and keeping up with AMWA news! As we had tea and cookies, Dr. Ozarin shared fascinating stories about her life, including memorabilia from her long, successful career.
Born on August 18, 1914, Dr. Ozarin attended New York Medical College (located then in Manhattan) where she was one of only 6 women in a class of 100. After graduation in 1937, she completed a two-year internship at Harlem Hospital in general medicine. Finances were scarce during the Great Depression, so to make ends meet, she took a job at Westchester County Hospital in New York practicing psychiatry. Because there were so few residency programs at the time, her term at the County hospital was credited as residency training.
During World War II, Dr. Ozarin was 1 of 7 women psychiatrists to receive commissioned officer status in the U.S. Navy. The newly passed 1943 Sparkman Act – a bill that AMWA lobbied hard to support – finally allowed women physicians to be commissioned as officers in the armed forces. As a naval officer, Dr. Ozarin oversaw the WAVE (Naval Women’s Reserve) ward at the naval hospital in Bethesda. After the war, she worked at the VA Central Office, frequently traveling nationwide to monitor the care provided at the 41 VA mental hospitals.
In 1957, Dr. Ozarin began working for the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) at the Kansas City Regional Office. As a public health officer, she oversaw the agency’s federal mental health program. During this time, she also earned an MPH from Harvard. She relocated to NIMH Headquarters in 1963. Congress had recently passed the Community Mental Health Act which provided federal funds to establish community mental health centers across the country. Dr. Ozarin worked on this grant program.
For a brief period, during 1971-1972, she was contracted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to look at the use of alcohol and drugs in Europe. Over the next 10 years, she would return several times to the WHO as a consultant on this work. Dr. Ozarin retired in 1981 after 26 years at the NIH, later returning as a volunteer at both the NIMH and the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Dr. Ozarin first heard of AMWA through a professor at New York Medical College who helped the 6 women in her class start an AMWA branch during their second year. She has remained a lifelong member of AMWA and to this day, avidly reads each newsletter.
Dr. Ozarin has never owned a computer, microwave, or cell phone, but she has traveled all over the world and arguably may be the best-read member in AMWA. After subscribing to JAMA for 78 faithful years, she earned a free subscription and a personally inscribed book from the editor. She has won numerous accolades and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians (in the 1940’s, fellowship was granted to physicians in fields outside of internal medicine).
Throughout her life, Dr. Ozarin, was an avid walker, often walking several miles a day. She walked daily to the NIMH. When she sold her car after 33 years, it had a mileage of only 33,000 miles.
Dr. Ozarin shared with me her secret to a long life – physical activity, a good diet, and a modicum of religion and faith.
Additional articles about Dr. Ozarin:
Dr. Lucy Ozarin
Dr. Ozarin’s New York Medical College diploma from 1937
Dr. Lucy Ozarin’s appointment as Assistant Surgeon with the rank of Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve of the U.S. Navy on August 28, 1943
Commemoration by President Harry Truman for Naval Service
Dr. Lucy Ozarin’s 50th medical school reunion – she was the only woman in attendance
Dr. Ozarin with Dr. Chin