You are here

Dr. Deborah Ann Turner

2013 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree:  Dr. Deborah Ann Turner

“As an Iowa citizen, as an American citizen, and as a world citizen, Dr. Deborah Turner has been a life-long public servant. Her advocacy on behalf of women, girls and minorities has contributed to more inclusive health care policies here at home and better health care practices around the world.” 
—Lt. Gov. Sally J. Pederson

Dr Deborah Ann Turner

While growing up in Mason City, Dr. Deborah Ann Turner often heard her mother say, “There is only one race: the human race.” And her father always told her, “I never met a stranger.” Turner has lived by those words since her birth in 1950. Turner was the first African-American woman to integrate a sorority at Iowa State University, be certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the specialty of gynecologic oncology and be hired as a gynecological oncologist at the University of Nebraska, University of Iowa and Medical College of Wisconsin. In 2000, Turner moved to Des Moines and became director of gynecologic oncology at Mercy Cancer Center, where she currently continues her practice. At that time Turner decided she could have greater impact on health policies, as well as education and social justice issues, if she had a law degree. So she studied nights and weekends to obtain a Juris Doctorate degree, all the while maintaining her medical practice. In addition to making contributions in her field of medicine, Turner has made civic responsibility a high priority, including on the Iowa Board of Regents, where she served until 2005 (while simultaneously pursuing her law degree), and as vice president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa and president for the Metro League of Women Voters in Des Moines. She continues to educate as a clinical professor at Des Moines University Medical School and as adjunct clinical faculty at the University of Iowa. She has expanded her medical mission to work in Tanzania with Outreach, Inc., a nondenominational non-governmental organization out of Union, Iowa. She has found this work rewarding and humbling; however, her greatest commitment is to her children, son Daniyel and niece Danielle.