Since 1926, February has been recognized as Black History Month, a month-long observance recognizing the countless achievements and contributions to our nation by African Americans. Throughout history, there have been numerous celebrated Black Americans in the Healthcare field. Let’s take a look at just a few of the many:
The first black physician to practice in the Unites States was James Derham. Mr. Derham, born a slave in Philadelphia in 1762, bought his freedom by working as a nurse. He had his own medical practice in New Orleans and was a popular and distinguished medical profession, in part for his knowledge of English, French, and Spanish.
Dr. James McCune Smith was the first African-American to earn a medical degree. He obtained his degree in 1837 in Glasgow Scotland because he had been denied admission to colleges in the United States. After returning to the U.S., Dr. Smith became the first black physician to have articles published in medical journals.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1863. She went on to provide care to freed slaves after the Civil War and eventually established her own medical practice in Boston.
The first Black Army Nurse was Susie King Taylor, a slave born on a Georgia plantation in 1848. She served during the American Civil War. After the war, Ms. Taylor became the first African American Woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences and later became a teacher in a school for former slaves in Savannah, Georgia.
The first African American professional nurse in the United States was Mary Eliza Mahoney. Following her dreams to become a nurse, Ms. Mahoney spent 15 years working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children before finally achieving acceptance into its nursing school. She graduated as a registered nurse in 1879.
Susan McKinney Steward became the first African-American female physician in New York State when she graduated as valedictorian from the New York Medical for Women in 1869. She went on to have a very successful medical practice in Brooklyn, NY and was best known for her work as a pediatrician.
The first successful open heart surgery in the United States was performed by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in 1893. Dr. Williams also founded the first black-owned, non-segregated hospital in America in 1891, the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew helped to save the lives of countless Allied Soldiers in World War II with his improved techniques for the storage of blood. Dr. Drew was a physician, surgeon, and medical researcher. He made an incredible impact in the field of blood transfusions and is credited with helping to develop large-scale blood banks.
Bessie Blount Griffin invented an electronic device allowing amputees to feed themselves after working with wounded soldiers during World War II. Ms. Griffin is best known as a physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist.
In 2008, Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his medical achievements including the separation of conjoined twins. Dr. Carson is also credited with the development of a surgical technique to control brain seizures. He served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital in Maryland from 1984 until his retirement in 2013.
Throughout the month of February, there will be events and activities organized to draw attention to the indelible impact that African Americans have made in our country. We want to know if you will be participating in Black History Month activities and what this month means to you. Join us in the comments section below, or post your thoughts to our Facebook Page or Twitter account.
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