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The Power Couple of U.S. Health and Behavioral Care

Ludlow and Ruth Creary

In Los Angeles County and beyond, the Creary Family’s reach is impressive.

Drs. Ludlow and Ruth Creary – co-founders of the philanthropic Creary Family Foundation – have been a power couple in health and behavioral care since the early eighties.

With nearly a century of nationwide service and education between them – even and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – the Crearys profoundly impacted the health care landscape for Black patients one program at a time, earning them multiple meritorious and legacy awards from organizations such as the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Minority Health Institute, the Special Needs Network, and National Medical Fellowships.

“We always believe things can get better, so we persevere and help those around us not to give up either.”

Quoting Robert Schuller, they remarked, “Tough times don’t last – tough people do.”

Dr. Ludlow B. Creary grew up in Jamaica with his mother, while his father lived in the countryside with his six half-siblings.

“My dream was to one day have a family member who’d already migrated to the U.S. sponsor me so I could finish my education and become a family physician,” he said.

Dr. Ruth Creary grew up in Michigan and Indiana with her mother, father, and five siblings. She had wanted to become a psychologist after high school, but it was her relative with Down Syndrome who inspired her to specialize in developmental psychology.

“I saw how individuals with special needs were not treated as equals, and one of my God-given gifts is compassion for others.”

Both primarily raised by single mothers, the Crearys said they saw firsthand the hardships facing one-parent households – including inequity and systemic bias in medicine.

Dr. Ludlow Creary’s teenage uncle lost his foot in a motorcycle accident in Jamaica because he wasn’t able to travel to Florida for surgery – and Dr. Ruth Creary’s father unexpectedly died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve. “Our mother kept saying, over and over, how is this possible? He had just been given a clean bill of health and was deemed fit to continue working,” she recalled.

“I grew up wondering what kind of physical my father was given by a white physician in town – were all the necessary tests run? Did they know he was a smoker? Why didn’t they find or report his heart condition? 
“My views on health care for Black Americans started right there and then.”

Dr. Ruth Creary earned her Bachelor of Science in psychology from Western Michigan University and her Master and Doctorate in psychology and mental health administration from the University of Illinois.

Dr. Ludlow B. Creary earned his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and math from Long Island University – Brooklyn, his Doctor of Medicine from Howard University College of Medicine, and his Master of Public Health from the University of California – Los Angeles.

“We entered our careers with a profound understanding of the unequal treatment and effects on policies, budgets, and outcomes in both the U.S. and global health systems. So, we always worked in underserved communities, knowing that is where we’d reach the most people who truly needed us.”

For more than 40 years, Dr. Ruth Creary provided primarily patients of color affected with developmental disabilities with exemplary health education and assistance in Los Angeles County. She also served as the director of residential therapeutic treatment services at the Dubnoff Center for Child Development in North Hollywood, as well as the first full-time executive director of the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities.

Her commitment to her career was highlighted worldwide when she carried the U.S. Olympic Torch in Beverly Hills in 2002.

Dr. Ludlow Creary co-founded the historic West Adams Hospital in Los Angeles – the first of its kind to be owned and operated by Black physicians in California – and also participated in the establishment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Watts-Willowbrook, where he fulfilled his passion to provide health care services to thousands of primarily Black patients in an under-resourced community for nearly 25 years.

Dr. Ludlow Creary then spent two decades participating in the creation of the joint medical program before becoming the inaugural Chair of the Department of Family Medicine for the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

His recently published book, “Getting Through: Uplifting Words on Overcoming, Persevering & Achieving,” is chock full of wisdom, advice, and mentorship based on the nine decades of his personal and professional experiences.

Photo of Dr. Ludlow Creary with ocean and mountains in the background. The text reads "Getting Through: Uplifting Words on Overcoming, Persevering & Achieving" Ludlow B. Creary, MD, MPH, FAAFP

“It’s designed for one to refer to when times are hard, when they need to keep going, and even once they’re on the road to success,” Dr. Ludlow Creary said. “Time and time again, this book is meant to ground you.”

After Dr. Ludlow Creary’s retirement, he and Dr. Ruth Creary purchased the first Visiting Angels’ senior in-home care franchise in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, where he served as medical director for more than 17 years before its sale.

Today, the Crearys are co-founders and top executives for the Creary Family Foundation, which provides financial support to non-profit organizations to ensure program longevity and transformation. Areas of particular focus for the Crearys include serving individuals with special needs; physicians, mental health professionals, and educators working in Black and Brown communities; community health clinics; clinical research aimed at reducing health disparities; youth education and recreation; higher education for first-generation students; and support for those experiencing domestic violence, to name a few.

Together, they’ve helped to raise more than $17 million for programming and scholarships in Los Angeles and beyond, including the Drs. Ludlow and Ruth Creary Family Foundation Scholarship with NMF.

“The organization’s ability to stay connected to previous scholars and their commitment to increase monetary and other support to Black, Indigenous, People of Color interested in pursuing careers in medicine and other allied health careers is what inspired us to personally get involved with NMF.”

In addition to the organization’s mission to increase the number of culturally competent physicians, researchers, and other allied health care professionals of color, the Crearys hope more strategically placed programs, clinics, and facilities will assist those underserved communities most lacking resources.

“NMF’s mission and positive record demonstrates its commitment to these issues, and we want to play a part.”

“We need to represent and reflect the diversity of populations being served,” Dr. Ludlow Creary stated. “There are numerous studies documenting that not only do individual patients have better outcomes with health care team members of similar backgrounds, but so do the broader Black and Brown communities at large.”

They do, however, share the concern that with significant advancements in technology making health care more accessible and efficient – including artificial-intelligence and virtual medicine – the benefits may not be felt evenly across various populations.

“Access, bias, and privacy challenges will become increasingly complex as health care becomes more fragmented and tech-driven,” Dr. Ruth Creary said.

The Crearys hope that, together with NMF, they can help to reduce implicit and explicit bias in medicine and research moving forward.

“We need to explore more creative ways to address and attack this issue, because it affects clinical decision making and, ultimately, patient outcomes,” Dr. Ludlow Creary concluded.