MSDC Board Chair Dr. Bathgate Testifies In Favor of Dr. Montague Cobb Way September 16, 2020

Written by MSDC Staff

On Tuesday, MSDC Chair of the Board of Directors Susanne Bathgate, MD, testified on behalf of the Society in favor of ceremonially renaming a street in the District after Dr. Montague Cobb.

The legislation authorizing the symbolic name change is supported and sponsored by MedChi DC. MSDC's testimony supported their effort and urged the District to consult with MedChi DC on Black District physicians who should be recognized in the District's efforts to recognize native Washingtonians.

The District government has limited ability to change street and location names officially, so the bill symbolically renames the street in Ward 1.

Dr. Montague Cobb is a noted civil rights leader and is famous medically for his research in anthropology and medicine dispelling myths that Blacks were naturally inferior to Whites. Dr. Cobb also taught for decades at Howard University's Medical School, influencing the direction of DC and Black medicine immensely. Current MedChi DC President and MSDC member Dr. Melvin Williams, for example, studied under Dr. Cobb.

Below is the text of Dr. Bathgate's testimony before the Committee of the Whole.

September 15, 2020

Committee of the Whole
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

Re: Testimony of Susanne Bathgate, MD, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Medical Society of DC, on B23-532, The Dr. Montague Cobb Way Designation Act of 2019

Thank you Chair Mendelson and Councilmembers for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Dr. Susanne Bathgate. During the day, I serve as Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist at the GW Medical Faculty Associations and Associate Professor in the GW School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Outside of my work capacity, and in the capacity I am testifying today, I am the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Medical Society of the District of Columbia.

MSDC supports the effort to symbolically name the 600 block of W Street NW “Dr. Montague Cobb Way”. Others will list the numerous reasons why Dr. Cobb is worthy of this honorific, but I wanted to highlight a few important ones from a medical perspective:

• By his own estimates, Dr. Cobb trained 6,000 health professionals at Howard University.
• His work in anthropology plus medicine showed that Black and White children’s brains developed the same way, dispelling a horrible myth that Black children were intellectually inferior by birth. 
• He was a leader in the National Medical Association and Medico-Chirurgical Society of DC (MedChi DC). 
• He was a child of the District, born here and educated at Dunbar High School.

The District’s medical history is incredibly rich and underrepresented in honorifics throughout the city. For example, Dr. Charles Drew – pioneer of effective blood transfusion and blood banks – was a District native. The American Medical Association itself was founded with the assistance of District physicians, three of whom served as presidents of the association. 

MSDC urges the District government to include physicians and medical professionals in the lists of native Washingtonians to recognize throughout the city in new ways. We especially urge the Council and Bowser Administration to consult with our MedChi colleagues to ensure the history of Black medicine in the District is appropriately recognized.

I welcome any questions you may have today, or you may contact the MSDC office at or for follow-up questions. I thank you for this opportunity and urge you to pass this bill.

Susanne Bathgate, MD, FACOG
Chair, MSDC Board of Directors