As healer, community leader, Yarboro has made an impactBy Tom Fontaine
Herald Staff Writer
As a child growing up in North Carolina, Theodore Yarboro carefully read his grandfather's medical books.
His grandfather, William F. Edwards, was a faith healer known throughout the South for the way he treated people and for the medicines he made from herbs.
One of those medicines, Dy-O-Fe, is a blood building tonic that was patented in 1909.
Though they would never meet, Edwards made a profound impact on the young Yarboro.
"I grew up reading those books, and I never knew until I was older how valuable they were," Yarboro said.
It's not so ironic then that Yarboro is a family doctor who has also spent a quarter century studying a blood disorder that commonly affects the black community.
To look at Yarboro's staggering list of accomplishments and accolades, and to talk with him, you realize the value of those medical books is immeasurable.
He has been the president or chairman of 10 different local organizations and served on the boards of numerous others.
He founded three local groups, including the Shenango Valley Urban League and the Doctor Maceo Patterson Future Physician Society.
He has written more than a dozen medical papers, and including this year's Buhl Day Honor, he has received 18 various awards.
Before Yarboro enrolled in medical school in the late-1950s, he worked for the government as a chemist. There were times, he said, when he thought he would remain a chemist.
"It was very competitive to get into medical school," Yarboro said.
Yarboro estimates that when he enrolled in Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tenn., he was one of about 200 black freshmen medical students in the country.
After graduating from medical school in 1963, the Southern-bred Yarboro went North to complete his internship in Warren, Ohio, and his general practice residency in Sharon.
In 1964, Yarboro said, he and his wife, Deanna, decided to stay in the Shenango Valley.
Yarboro has been here ever since with his wife of nearly 39 years. They have three children: Theodore Jr., Deanna and Theresa.
Aside from his family and his Sharon practice, Yarboro's most important legacy may be the Shenango Valley Urban League, which he founded in 1968.
"I put together a 10-man committee in 1968, and we met with the United Way to discuss the need for an Urban League. And within a few months, it was established," Yarboro said.
"The league tries to make life better for minorities ... to help minorities move into the mainstream," Yarboro said.
Yarboro served as president of the league from 1968-72, on its board of directors from 1968-78, as its medical director from 1973-84, and has served as sickle cell consultant since 1973.
Sickle cell research is very important to Yarboro, and to the African-American community especially.
Sickle cell anemia is a painful blood disorder that causes abnormality in the part of the blood that carries oxygen, according to Yarboro.
When a person becomes anemic, he said, the body lacks oxygen, which leads to numerous physical problems including strokes.
In this country, the blood disorder is more common among blacks than any other race.
Aside from ongoing research, Yarboro said he and the local Urban League try to help people afflicted with the blood disorder.
"We support people with the disease. This medical condition often triggers other conditions, so we provide help in other areas, like dental care for example. There is no cure yet so we do what we can," Yarboro said.
The grandson of a faith healer, Yarboro today is known for the way he treats people, in and out of the doctor's office.