Dickens, Helen Octavia

Alternative names
Birth 1909-02-21
Death 2001

Biographical notes:

Helen Octavia Dickens was born in Dayton, Ohio, to Charles and Daisy (Green) Dickens on February 21, 1909. She was a 1934 graduate of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, the only African-American woman in her graduating class. She spent two years after graduation at Provident Hospital in Chicago, and then practiced with Dr. Virginia Alexander in a birthing-home practice in North Philadelphia.

Dickens saught further training in obstetrics and gynecology, spending a year at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine. Dickens passed the board examinations in 1945, becoming the first female African-American board-certified Ob/gyn in Philadelphia. That year, Dr. Dickens became Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia. In 1951, Dr. Dickens joined the courtesy staff of Women's Hospital and would later be named chief of obstetrics and gynecology. When the University of Pennsylvania took over the Women's Hospital in 1956, Dr. Dickens became a member of the staff and faculty in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the School of Medicine.

One of her special interests was aiding pregnant teenagers. In 1967, Dickens founded the Teen Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania for school-age mothers in the inner city. The clinic's services included counseling and group therapy, educational classes, family planning assistance, and prenatal care. Another of Dickens's interests was cancer education and services.

Helen O. Dickens died on 2 December 2001 at the age of 92 and was survived by her daughter Jayne Brown.

From the description of Papers, 1934-1994. (University of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122614736


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Ark ID:


  • Minorities in medicine
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Women in medicine


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  • United States (as recorded)