Earl Ramsey Claiborne, MD – Class of ‘54
(August 16, 1921 – September 11, 1995)
Dr. Earl Ramsey Claiborne was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He grew up in the segregated South, forced to attend all-black schools where he excelled in science. He went on to graduate Talladega College, an HBCU in Alabama, and Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. He interned at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis when it was the only hospital where black patients could be treated. He went on to become (one of) the first African American dermatology residents at Stanford School of Medicine, a distinction of which he was deeply proud.
Dr. Claiborne had an encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and was sometimes able to diagnose even rare or obscure illnesses with a single exam.
He trained at Stanford under the tutelage of then dermatology department chair, Dr. Eugene Farber. Dr. Farber was more than a mentor. He and Dr. Claiborne shared a deep desire to help patients, irrespective of wealth or social status. They remained friends the rest of their lives.
After training at Stanford and serving nine years in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Dr. Claiborne went into private practice in Oakland and later Los Angeles.
Dr. Claiborne was active in the Los Angeles community, serving as a member of the Julian Ross Medical Center, the Urban League, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, the National Medical Association and as an officer in the Charles R. Drew Medical Auxiliary. He served as a trustee board member of Talladega College.
As he built his medical practice, he also built a family. He married Marie Strickland Claiborne and they had two sons, Keith and Ron, a professional television journalist. Keith passed away in 2018. Mrs. Claiborne died in 2019.
His son Ron remembers Dr. Claiborne as a kind, wise loving father who had a special love of sports. He had been an outstanding tennis and basketball player in his youth and early adulthood. He was especially fond of quoting aphorisms, many of them spun from his own wit and wisdom.
His son warmly recalls that his father was passionate about medicine, but what stood out was how kind, even reverential he was toward his patients, introducing them to his boys “as if they were royalty.”
Dr. Claiborne passed on to his children his traits of curiosity, concern and respect for people, even his penchant to striking up conversations with complete strangers. Ron Claiborne shared the following reflection:
"“He loved diseases of the skin and would often stop people on the street to ask about their condition and offer his advice. He solved a medical mystery for my friend Lenny in the late ‘80s. Lenny was told he had a rare disease; his doctors couldn’t figure it out. With just a few questions about his symptoms, Dad astutely solved it. He told Lenny he had San Joaquin Valley fever. He was right; he accurately diagnosed an issue that had completely baffled all the experts at Cedars Sinai.” – Ron Claiborne
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Thank you to Jeﬀrey and Maddie Carmel for their generosity in setting up a legacy gift to support advanced research in Dermatology. Dr. Jeﬀrey Carmel has been a part of Stanford Dermatology for over 50 years in various roles, including Acting Instructor, Clinical Teaching Assistant, and Clinical Associate Professor among others. For the last 30 years, he has served as Adjunct Clinical Professor and devoted a tremendous amount of his time as a volunteer attending clinic and teaching medical students.
"We arrived at Stanford in 1968, fresh from the Internal Medicine program at the University of Rochester, and were warmly greeted by Dr. Eugene Farber, the first Dermatology Department Chair. We quickly became part of the Derm Family and came to appreciate the vision, the passion and the commitment that Dr. Farber brought to the program he founded, particularly to his residents. That passion continues today under the unique leadership of Dr. Paul Khavari. Looking back over five decades on the Clinical Faculty, the changes in patient care due to progress in research is astounding. During my residency, patients with severe psoriasis were hospitalized for weeks with tar baths, anthralin treatments, UVB therapy, topical steroids, and occasionally the new drug, Methotrexate. That was the best we could oﬀer, and it wasn’t great. For blistering disorders all we had was wound care and compassion. Today modern therapies give these patients and a myriad of other dermatology patients a new lease on life with drugs we could not have even dreamed of in those days. There was no laser therapy, Mohs Surgery and immunotherapy were in their infancy, and systemic drugs were non-specific and came with many potential serious side eﬀects. Even the surgical skills we learned as residents were primitive compared to what residents learn today. Stem cell research? Not even yet a dream. By making a legacy gift, we hope to ensure that the Department will always have the resources it needs to meet whatever challenges lie ahead, in research, in resident training, in attracting the best faculty. An old man was once asked why he was planting a small sapling of a tree that could not possibly bear fruit during his lifetime. With a smile he pointed to the mature trees around him that were planted by his forebears. A legacy gift is our way of giving back to the Department that gave us so much and will continue to make life better for those who follow us."
Personna Dermablade by Dr. Robert Segal
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