"He provided free medical services to the most disadvantaged in Arlington..."
Join us for a new series of stories from the Center for Local History highlighting members of our community who made a difference in ways that helped shape our history and created positive change.
Their voices were not always loud, but what they said or did had a significant impact on our community.
Dr. Roland Bruner
Dr. Roland Herman Bruner (1902-1978) was an obstetrician, lecturer, and the first African-American doctor to be hired by Arlington County’s Department of Health’s Prenatal Clinic in a time of bigotry, racism, and segregation.
Bruner received a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1928 and a Medical Degree in 1932. One of just 24 students to receive the offer of an internship at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C., he joined the staff thereafter completing his internship.
On July 29, 1934, Bruner and his wife Georgia purchased a property in Green Valley/Nauck at 2018 S. Glebe Rd. where he opened a private practice specializing in obstetrics. This allowed African-American women to deliver children in Arlington rather than having to travel to the Freedmen’s Hospital in the District of Columbia. He bartered with patients and often provided free services to the most disadvantaged, even delivering babies at the homes of people turned away by a segregated medical establishment.
Dr. Bruner and a nurse perform an obstetrics exam for a patient at the Arlington County Department of Health, 1938. Image had the caption "Prenatal Clinic" under it in the 1938 Rural Health Conservation Scrapbook. Photo Source: RG 21, Records of the Arlington County Department of Health: 21-1-"1938"-9
In 1935 Bruner became a part-time member of the clinical faculty of Howard University College of Medicine, where he would serve until 1951. He became a notable lecturer in the fields of women’s health and prenatal care and in 1938 he became the first African-American doctor employed by Arlington County’s Department of Health’s Prenatal Clinic. Bruner also played a vital role in the establishment of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Arlington. With a private practice spanning 45 years from 1933-1978, Dr. Roland Herman Bruner served multiple generations in his community.
In 2001, Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC) purchased Dr. Bruner’s home from the Bruner family, renovating the property into a development comprising 7 townhomes known as Bruner Place. The home was relocated on the property.
Bruner's daughter, Dr. Denise E. Bruner, is a practicing physician in Arlington County specializing in bariatrics and anti-aging.
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