Interviewed by Emily Friedman on February 3, 2011
Edited by Kim M. Garber
American Hospital Association
Center for Hospital and Healthcare Administration History
Health Research & Educational Trust
Elliot C. Roberts, Sr., served more than 40 years as a CEO of major urban hospitals, including Detroit General Hospital, Harlem Hospital in New York, Charity Hospital in New Orleans and Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
He was a path breaker at a time when segregation was still commonplace in U.S. hospitals. When Roberts began his health care career as an assistant administrator at Baltimore’s Provident Hospital in 1953, about 500 hospitals were exclusively owned or operated by African-American doctors who primarily served African-American patients in their communities. Until the 1960s, many hospitals would not admit African-American patients or hire African-American medical staff.
Provident Hospital, founded in 1894, was the second African-American-owned and -operated hospital in the country. The hospital closed in 1986.
Roberts retired in 1994 as CEO of Charity Hospital/Medical Center at New Orleans, but continued to teach management and health policy for another 20 years at the Louisiana State University Medical School’s Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine.
He served on the AHA board from 1971 to 1976, chaired the association’s section for metropolitan hospitals in 1992, and served on a number of AHA task forces and committees, including one on health care for the disadvantaged in 1978. In those positions, he played a prominent role in helping to shape AHA policy.