Justina Laurena Carter was born in 1871 in Knoxville, a small town a few miles east of Galesburg, Illinois. She grew up in Galesburg. Her interest in the practice of medicine was apparently cultivated at a young age.
She graduated from Hering Medical College in Chicago in 1899. She first practiced in Normal, Alabama, but soon moved to Denver, Colorado. Throughout her career, Dr. Ford faced the obstacles of being both African American and a woman in a profession that much of society felt belonged to white males. "The Lady Doctor" persevered and served a needy segment of society - the disadvantaged and underprivileged of all races. She is claimed to have delivered over 7,000 babies.
Eventually, Dr. Ford was allowed to practice at Denver General Hospital and admitted to the Denver, the Colorado and the American Medical Societies. However, by 1950, she was still the only physician in Colorado to be both African American and female.
Ford's former home is now the Black America West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver.