Black History Month: Honoring Dr. Viola Coleman

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You may have seen the Viola M. Coleman High School off Golf Course Road in Midland or the Viola M. Coleman Family Clinic supported by the Midland Community Healthcare Services, but who is Viola M. Coleman?

To many, she is known as a trailblazer, a guardian angel, an advocate for justice and equality, and some even think of her as a superhero. Doctor Viola Coleman will forever be a symbol of hope and love in our community.

“It was like being in the presence of royalty,” said Phyllis Lattibeaudiere, a nurse who worked with Dr. Coleman starting in 1979. 

Dr. Viola Coleman changed so many lives during her time in Midland. As the first black female doctor at Midland Memorial Hospital, she cared for her patients like her family. She never turned anyone away, even if they were not able to pay for their medical care. Her incredible legacy continues to live on through the lives she touched. 

IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION

Four of the most important things to Dr. Coleman was her relationship with God, her family, her patients, and her education. Education was something that she fought for her entire life, ensuring everyone had access to equal quality education. 

Video: Conrad Coleman, Doctor Viola Coleman’s son, talks about how she fought for Midland Schools to be integrated and how with the help of Thurgood Marshall and the NCAAP, sued LSU Medical School after she was denied because of her race. 

PUTTING PATIENTS FIRST

Dr. Coleman continued to break barriers and paved the way for young black men and women to help them achieve their dreams. Dr. Coleman was not only on staff at Midland Memorial Hospital but had a private practice for more than 50 years.

During her time at MMH, she integrated the cafeteria and the hospital rooms. Those who knew her said she was a force of nature who always stood up for what was right as she faced challenge after challenge. 

Video: Conrad shares how his mother ended up in Midland, set up the first Emergency Medical Service (EMS) for Midland, how she stood up for her patients, and the message she has for doctors today. 

ALWAYS GIVING BACK

Conrad said that his mother was a woman of faith, and she shared that faith with others. One example was when a patient stole money from her and ended up in jail, but Dr. Coleman continued to send birthday cards while she served her time. “She told her that she loved her and forgave her,” said Conrad. 

After she passed, Conrad said that he received a call from an insurance company regarding a person who totaled their car and needed to replace it and that his Mother was the co-signer on loan. Conrad said he told the insurance agent she was deceased but provided the death certificate to help this person replace their car.

“I never knew about that; I never knew who the person was. There you go again, mom helping somebody else,” Conrad said.

Flora Hale, a current compliance officer at Midland Community Healthcare who worked with Dr. Coleman, said that she even paid for a young man’s airfare to fly back home after receiving a fatal cancer diagnosis. Hale said Dr. Coleman knew the importance of being with family. 

Whether it was giving her credit card to people to pay for their medicines or delivering furniture to those who had nothing, Dr. Coleman was considered by many a guardian angel. 

“Somebody told me that your Mother was our physician, and we couldn’t afford to pay her, but she said, you come on anyway, and they paid her with eggs; they had chickens.”

Conrad Coleman, Dr. Viola Coleman’s son

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