In 1987, Debra Hardy-Cartwright, MD was the first African American female physician to open and operate her own private OB/GYN practice in Annapolis, Maryland.
Her private practice was established during a period when African American women had to go to Baltimore for OB/GYN support or they gave birth under the care of a midwife. During this time, other private practice physicians in the Annapolis area did not serve African American women.
Debra was born at a segregated hospital in Suffolk, Va. She was raised by her parents in Surry County, Virginia – just across the James River from Williamsburg and Jamestown. Her parents were both born and raised in Surry County, and they are a big part of the reason for her success. They were very active in civil rights and concerned about and focused on improving the education of not just their own children but all the other Black children in the county. Her mother was a teacher’s aide in the public schools, worked for Surry Extension and housing, and Coordinator for Building and grounds for Surry County. Her mother was also the first black elected official in the County as a write–in candidate for Justice of the Peace. Her father left the County to attend Isle of Wight Training School just across the county line. And after being drafted into the Army he worked and retired from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
In 1979, Hardy-Cartwright earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Virginia. She received her M.D. from Howard University College of Medicine in 1983 and in 1987 completed her Obstetrics/Gynecology Residency at the Howard University Hospital. She was recruited during her last year of residency to be part of a team of physicians to provide OB care for Medicaid patients in a joint venture program between Anne Arundel General Hospital and Anne Arundel County. This program was initiated at a time when none of the private medical practices in Annapolis would accept Medicaid. Her hospital privileges were obtained after being hired for the Health Department program because the patients had to be delivered there. While working part-time caring for low-income patients at the Anne Arundel County Health Department, Hardy-Cartwright took the opportunity to open her own practice and thus became the first Black person to own a private OB/GYN practice in Annapolis.
During her undergraduate program, Hardy-Cartwright became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Later she became a member of The Annapolis Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. In addition, she is a Board-Certified member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has received numerous awards, including the Annapolis Juneteenth Celebration 2022 Pillar Award, the “Few of the Many” Sojourner Truth Award, and the Office of Anne Arundel County Executive and Caucus of African American Leaders Awards in February 2022.
She resides in Annapolis where she and her husband raised their two daughters. One daughter – a graduate of the University of Virginia and Parsons School of Design, is an accomplished artist now serving as an adjunct professor at Rutgers University while obtaining her master’s in fine arts. The other daughter – a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Business School, is the founder & CEO of a venture capital-backed supply chain technology start-up.
In 2022, Dr. Debra Hardy-Cartwright retired as a board-certified physician with over 30 years of experience in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has delivered well over three thousand babies in Anne Arundel County and has had the rare privilege of caring for multiple generations of patients in her beloved community for 34 years.