Dr. Barbara Onderchek Black ’62: Guided by Passion and Faith
by Margy Brooks Reagan ’78
“Set goals for your life, learn your strengths, and use those strengths to achieve those goals.”
The starting point for all successful careers must be a passion for excellence. Dr. Barbara Onderchek Black’s ’62 devotion to faith, generosity of spirit and commitment to excellence have clearly defined her career as a physician. As a 2011 recipient of Georgetown University’s Founder’s Award, Black was recognized for her remarkable dedication to the School of Medicine. Following her graduation, Black established a lifelong commitment to Georgetown University by serving as a mentor for those medical students who would follow in her footsteps. She actively participated in career events for medical students and residents and offered career advice to fledgling physicians. As one of the first female members of the Georgetown Clinical Society, she served on the executive, scholarship and program committees. Her service to the society earned her the Physician of the Year award in 2002.
Black’s interest in science dates back to her years as a student at Dominican Academy in New York City. Excelling in all things science, Black arrived at Trinity College in the fall of 1958. Majoring in chemistry, she found her studies at Trinity both challenging and enriching, and because of the liberal arts curriculum, was provided with an extensive knowledge base upon which to draw.
Black credits Trinity for providing an environment that enabled her to grow with faith and knowledge into a secure woman, able to meet whatever challenges she would face. “Living among and learning with other intelligent women in addition to being taught by the knowledgeable and caring Sisters of Notre Dame was truly a blessing,” says Black. Excelling in her studies at Trinity, medical school was in her future, with Georgetown as her first choice. Although one of only seven females in her class in medical school, Black was not intimidated since “Trinity had given me the ability to know my strengths and abilities and establish goals.” Black graduated from the School of Medicine in 1966, completed an internship and a one-year general surgery residency at Georgetown, followed by a urology residency that she completed in 1971.
Black maintained a private practice in urology in Washington, D.C., and during her years at Sibley Memorial Hospital, Black chaired the Utilization Review Committee during which time she created the D.C. Hospital Review Consortium. In this position she helped build an effective platform for fostering collaboration among area hospitals to speak with one voice to third-party insurance carriers. In 1992 Black accepted a role at Sibley as medical director of continuous quality improvement, a position she held until her retirement in 1994.
Black’s commitment to service was not limited to her patients in her practice. She served as one of the physicians who provided free health care in a clinic associated with Columbia Hospital for Women. Additionally, she has been an active member of her church and community. As a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Bethesda, Maryland, she has served as a member of the parish council, launched and continues to lead the women’s group, and serves as parish liaison to the Archdiocesan Vocations Office.
There is so much more to Black than her impressive resume. She is a compassionate and caring woman, an alumna who represents the tradition, fortitude and indomitable spirit that defines so many Trinity women. Upon receiving her award, Black cited three credos that gave direction to her life: Veritas (Truth), Scientia ancilla fidei, (Knowledge the handmaid of faith), and Ad maiorem dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God). For the Trinity student today, Black says, “Set goals for your life, learn your strengths, and use those strengths to achieve those goals. The Trinity student of today, just as in 1962, can reach any heights.”