Kenneth Edelin, M.D. ’67

Kenneth C. Edelin, M.D., ’67 Pioneer, Activist and Fighter for Women's Health Care Rights and the Disadvantaged, Dies


Kenneth C. Edelin, M.D., '67 renowned physician, pioneer, activist and fighter for the health care rights of women and the disadvantaged, died December 30, 2013 in Sarasota, Florida after a year-long battle with cancer and a long, distinguished career. Known nationally as a compassionate and scholarly physician, he leaves a legacy that transformed the landscape for generations of women and physicians who still continue to fight for justice for women's health. Dr. Edelin practiced medicine for nearly forty years until his retirement in 2006.

Born in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1939, Dr. Edelin was educated in segregated Washington schools through the eighth grade. He graduated from Columbia University in 1961and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Meharry Medical College in 1967.

After a tour of duty in the United States Air Force, Dr. Edelin received his specialty training in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital and was the first African American to become chief resident in the history of the department.

Just five years after completing his residency, he was appointed chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Boston University School of Medicine. He held this position for over a decade during which time he also served as director of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital and gynecologist-in-chief at Boston University Hospital.

In 1989, he became the associate dean for Student and Minority Affairs at Boston University School of Medicine. In later years, he took on the additional role of director of the Early Medical School Selection Program. In doing so, Dr. Edelin expanded access to medical school for minority students from around the country and the Caribbean. Through his passionate commitment to this mission, he made a dramatic impact on the number of minority medical students attending and completing medical school at Boston University.

From 1989 to 1992, Dr. Edelin chaired the board of directors of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's largest private family planning agency. In this role, he led the organization through one of its most turbulent times, continuously standing in defense of the organization's philosophy, practices and services for women. In 2008, Dr. Edelin received the Margaret Sanger Award, the Federation's highest honor. It is presented annually to recognize leadership, excellence and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.

Dr. Edelin served on both the New England and national boards of the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the NAACP and chaired the Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women of the American College of Obstetrics.

After moving to Florida, Dr. Edelin joined the board of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and was later inducted into the medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha.

He has published extensively in his field, with a special emphasis on teen pregnancy and prevention and substance abuse during pregnancy, and has received national recognition for his leadership and advocacy including being the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award from the National Medical Association, the Good Guy Award from the National Women's Political Caucus and being named One of America's Leading Black Doctors by Black Enterprise magazine.

Dr. Edelin lived his life by serving others but, at the center of his life was his family. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Barbara Evans Edelin; four children, Kenneth Edelin Jr., Kimberley Edelin Freeman, Joseph Edelin and Corinne Edelin; eight grandchildren; his brother, Milton Edelin; sister Norma Johnson and many extended family and friends from coast to coast.

A memorial service will be held in Boston in the latter part of January 2014. Funeral arrangements are by Wiegand Brothers Funeral Home. For more information or to sign the guestbook, please click here.