Dr. Rachael Ross
Keeping others healthy seems part of Rachael Ross’s own DNA. A family practice physician at the Tatum Family Health Center, Ross has followed in her father’s footsteps at the clinic David Ross, M.D., founded decades ago at 1619 W. 5th Ave., Gary.
Medicine was “a safe choice. I grew up just a few blocks from the clinic,” she says. “No matter what, my mom stressed, especially to the girls, that they become educated and be able to take care of themselves. My two sisters and a brother are also doctors.” A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Ross earned a medical degree from Meharry Medical College. A resident of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, she brings her medical expertise to many pursuits.
Part of Ross’s professional life revolves around the Gary-based health care clinic where she sees patients on a regular basis. “Our focus is on preventive care to keep families healthy. We show people how to take care of themselves,” Ross says.
Women have a natural nurturing spirit and are often the ones who take care of their families. But many times they go it alone, and these caregivers don’t always take care of themselves, she says. “We strive to help them mentally and physically,” she says.
Another commitment to health care takes Ross to Westville Correctional Facility in LaPorte County as the prison’s medical director. The 3,500-bed men’s prison houses prisoners in minimal, medium and maximum security units. “We have an infirmary and we see a lot of medical and mental health issues—a lot of hypertension, some cancer,” she says. “We have a dedicated team of mental health experts. We make sure the men get the health care they need.”
Ross’s interest in the connection between the mind and body also led her to pursue a doctorate in clinical sexology through the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists. “I was working with HIV/AIDS patients, mostly gay men. I wondered how and why people have sex,” she says. “There is such a shortage of clinicians in that field. Society still hesitates to really talk about sex. Two in three people cheat in their relationships. If you ignore it, it won’t go away.”
Helping couples create long-term commitments is part of her work as a board-certified sexologist. “We need to have frank and honest discussions about sex,” she says.
Ross provides education and therapy for her patients at the clinic. She also sponsors “Girl Talk” a regular education program that brings in girls from the community, ages 9 to 18, with her sister, Rebekkah Ross, M.D.
“We split them into age-appropriate groups and talk with them about their health and, of course, boys. We provide them with life skills,” Ross says. The Girl Talk program attracts 40 to 60 girls at a time and provides a “big sister/mom relationship with the staff at the clinic,” she says. “We try to get them where we are in life—educated, working at a good job.”
Those self-esteem issues need to be reinforced, Ross says, because girls sometimes under-value themselves. “We had one girl who was particularly difficult. She tried to commit suicide several times and was having sex with all kinds of men. I didn’t think we’d ever reach her,” Ross recalls. “Today she’s in college and has turned her life around.”
To reach even larger audiences with her expertise in sexology, Ross has become a media consultant in the Chicago TV and radio market, and throughout the nation via cable stations. During her segments on WGN Morning News, she answers viewers’ questions and comments on health topics that are in the news. An energetic, no-holds-barred speaker, Ross is known for her open discussions about relationships, sex, abstinence for teenagers and HIV/AIDS prevention.
She’s also featured twice weekly on You & Me This Morning on Chicago’s WCIU 9 (“The U”) as the “women’s health and happiness expert.” In addition, Ross offers her sex and relationship advice weekly on Chicago’s Power 92FM and provides medical commentary for the nationally syndicated Tavis Smiley radio show.
As a writer, Ross contributes regularly to such magazines as Cosmopolitan and Real Health Magazine. And she recently published her first book, Down Right, Feel Right, Outercourse for Her & Him through her website, DrRachael.com.
Several years ago, Ross also moonlighted as a dance music DJ in clubs and parties across Chicagoland, and was featured on The Oprah Show. However, her medical practice and media consulting work doesn’t give her time to pursue that secondary career.
“Today,” she says, “what gives me the most satisfaction is feeling like I’m having an impact on people’s lives. Something I’ve said or done has helped someone change their life. As you walk through life, you see opportunities to help, and you should.”