Grace Kerby was born in Syracuse, New York in 1912. She attended Florida State College for Women, graduating with a BS in chemistry in 1933. She became a bacteriologist in the autopsy bacteriology laboratory of the Department ofBacteriology of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and from 1937 to 1940 worked as a bacteriologist of the Brucellosis Laboratory of the Clayton Foundation for Research in San Antonio, Texas. In 1940 she came to Duke University Medical School as a research assistant in the Department of Pathology.
In 1942, Kerby became an Instructor of Pathology at Duke. In 1943, she resigned this position to enroll in Duke University Medical School as a medical student in her early thirties. In 1946 she graduated at the head of her class. Sheserved her residency also at Duke Medical School, becoming the first female chief resident in the male-dominated Department of Medicine. From 1958 to 1975, Dr. Kerby headed the house staff selection committee for the Department of Medicine, serving as the department chair's "right hand" in this regard. She became the first female full professor within the department in 1963. From 1965 to 1971 she was the chief of the Division of Rheumatic and Genetic Disease in the Department of Medicine, the first female to become a division chief in the department. She retired in 1976 and passed away in 1987.