Stamford Black History Month event celebrates Yerwood

February 24, 2017 GMT

STAMFORD — Joyce Carwin’s mission in life is to preserve the legacy of her extraordinary grandmother.

Dr. Joyce Yerwood, a pioneer for black women who left a lasting impression on Stamford and beyond, was recognized this week at UConn-Stamford’s annual Black History Month celebration.

Yerwood, who was Fairfield County’s first black woman doctor, was at the center of this year’s HerSTORY theme.

Carwin was the keynote speaker at the event, which celebrated Stamford’s black woman physicians in honor of Yerwood.

“As I grew older, I became aware of how important my grandmother was to the Stamford community,” Carwin said to the packed room at UConn’s downtown campus. “She was fierce and fearless ... she did not let the color of her skin or her gender stop her.”


Yerwood solidified her place in the city’s history in 1943, when she founded the West Side community center that now bears her name. She was also inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame last year.

Carwin said her grandmother was inspired to open the Yerwood Center after a child told her she “never knew that a colored woman could be a doctor.”

Yerwood realized Stamford’s black community needed role models and motivation, Carwin said.

Yerwood died in her Old Greenwich home in 1987 at the age of 78.

“I am so honored that she was recognized,” said Carwin, a single mother and legal assistant at the Barr and Morgan law firm in Stamford. “It’s nice to see that Stamford, where she did so much, is still recognizing her ... That the center itself is still open is a wonderful thing as well.”

The center, which always served as a refuge for troubled youths in the city, closed in 2014 due to financial issues. It was saved in 2015 when the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford shifted its after-school programs to the center.

“I’m so happy to see what the Boys and Girls Club has done with the center,” Carwin said.

Several black women doctors were recognized Thursday night in response to a viral social media post by a black doctor who said a Delta Airlines flight attendant dismissed her help during a medical emergency.

That post spawned the hashtag #whatdoctorslooklike.

Twelve of the city’s black women doctors, including Stamford’s director of Health and Social Services Dr. Jennifer Calder, were recognized during the event.; @noranaughton