Throughout her life, Dr. Wilma Wooten has broken barriers and served as a role model for young people, especially African American girls, who wish to pursue a career in medicine and science.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Wooten has exemplified what it means to be a person of courage and moral strength by providing clear, science-based directives to County leaders that prioritize the health of San Diegans through the pandemic crisis. Despite criticisms and personal threats, she continues to serve our region based on best practices in public health.
For this, The San Diego Foundation, in collaboration with Alliance Healthcare Foundation, The David C. Copley Foundation and San Diego Gas & Electric, is proud to honor her with the Dr. Wilma Wooten Courage Scholarship. The scholarship supports the education pillar of the Black Community Investment Fund and will provide scholarships to San Diegans who are pursuing a degree in health sciences and come from communities underrepresented in higher education, especially students who are the first in the families to attend college.
The scholarship will provide more opportunities for the next generation of doctors, scientists and healthcare leaders to serve their communities as Wooten has.
Lifetime of Leadership and Service
As the San Diego Union Tribune detailed, Dr. Wooten grew up with what she described as “meager means” in a rural Alabama town of fewer than 1,000 people and one streetlight.
Raised by her great grandparents, she spent much of her time helping the local elderly community alongside her brother. She said the experience helped her develop a strong sense of public service and from a young age, she knew she wanted to get into medicine.
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Wooten excelled in school and would go on to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, the historical black college for women where she received her undergraduate degree. She then studied at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, where she graduated with a degree in medicine.
In 1989, her residency brought her to San Diego when she started working in preventative medicine at San Diego State University under Dr. Kevin Patrick.
“She was very practical in her approach to things and very hard working,” Patrick shared with the Union Tribune. “Obviously, she cares for the community. I think the social justice component was really important for [Dr. Wooten].”
Years later, Dr. Wooten would go on to work with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, where she has served as Public Health Officer since 2007. In her role, she has led the region through numerous public health challenges, although none greater than what San Diegans are experiencing now with COVID-19.
Facing myriad challenges during the pandemic, Dr. Wooten has always prioritized the health and safety of San Diegans.
We are excited to support the next generation of young healthcare leaders in our region through the Wilma Wooten Courage Scholarship.