Arthur M. West, District doctor, dies at 87

By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2011; 9:49 PM

Arthur M. West, a physician who treated Washingtonians for half a century through his general practice and long affiliation with Washington Hospital Center and the city's old Freedmen's Hospital, died March 8 at Manor Care Health Services, a nursing home in Chevy Chase. He was 87 and had dementia.

Dr. West opened his practice on Decatur Street NW in 1955 and saw patients until retiring in 2004.

During that time, he served for two decades as an attending physician at Freedmen's Hospital, a forerunner of Howard University Hospital. In 1961, he also began admitting patients at Washington Hospital Center, where he was among the first African American doctors to serve as an attending physician and later as a senior attending physician.

In addition to his work there, Dr. West was a medical officer for the Food and Drug Administration beginning in 1964. From 1968 to 1970, he oversaw the FDA's approval of new prescription drugs. In the early 1970s, he also taught family practice medicine at Howard University's medical school.

Arthur Mason West was born in Washington on Dec. 1, 1923, and graduated from Dunbar Senior High School in 1941.

He studied for a year at Los Angeles City College and for two years at the University of Southern California. Because of the demand for doctors during World War II, he was accepted into USC's medical school before finishing his undergraduate degree, his family said, but was denied admission after officials found out that he was black.

He returned to Washington and graduated from Howard University's medical school in 1948.

Dr. West interned in Baltimore and completed a residency in anesthesia and a fellowship in diagnostic radiology at Freedmen's Hospital. He served as a medical officer in the Navy from 1949 to 1951 and then opened a private practice in Baltimore, where he worked for several years before shifting to the District.

From 1955 until his death, he was active in the D.C. Medical Society and a member of the American Medical Association. He also was a member of the Society of Physicians of American Geriatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice.

His wife of 60 years, Minna Anne Williams West, died in 2010.

Survivors include two children, Delise Williams of Washington and Arthur N. West of Beltsville; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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