Segregation in the early 20th century kept black doctors and nurses from working in the white hospitals of Roanoke, and black citizens were denied treatment in these facilities.
By 1914, a committee of doctors led by Isaac Burrell and including J.B. Claytor Sr., J.S. Cooper, S.F. Williman, L.C. Downing, and J.H. Roberts was working to establish a hospital to serve the region's black residents. Later that year, Dr. Burrell became gravely ill, but was denied medical service in Roanoke's white hospital. Burrell had to travel to Washington, DC, for treatment; he made the trip on a cot in the baggage car of a train, but died following surgery. The remaining doctors purchased a building at 311 Henry Street and renovated it to meet hospital standards. Named in memory of their colleague, Burrell Memorial Hospital opened in 1915, with ten beds and modern equipment in a minor and major operating room. Soon growing too large for the building, the hospital relocated to the former Allegheny Institute on McDowell Avenue in 1921. A new four-story facility was built in the 1950s; the building remains, but no longer serves as a hospital.
In 1913, the first black dentist in the city, Dr. Edward R. Dudley, located his office on Gilmer Avenue. His talents were not limited to dentistry. He served as a probation officer and helped
organize the Magic City Building and Loan Association, the first black savings institution in the area.
In 1907, Dr. John B. Claytor Sr. established his medical practice on Gainsboro Road. He influenced medical care and community life in Roanoke for over forty years. In 1947, he and his family built the Claytor Memorial Clinic in honor of his deceased wife, Roberta, who wanted her husband and sons to practice together. The Clinic was one of the earliest group practices in Roanoke, with several Claytor family members working there. The building still stands, but was damaged by fire in 1995.