Honoring Black History Month: Notable Contributors to the Medical Field

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931)   Dr. Williams performed the first successful open heart surgery in 1893 and founded Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses (the first black-owned hospital in America) in 1891. From 1893-1898, he was Surgeon-in-Chief, Freedmen’s Hospital, Washington, DC. He also founded the National Medical Association in 1895 (African Americans were denied membership in the American Medical Association). As a charter member of the American College of Surgeons in 1913, he was the first and only African American member for many years. <!–split–>

Dr. William Augustus Hinton (1883-1959)   First African American physician to publish a textbook – Syphilis and Its Treatment, 1936. He is known internationally for the development of a flocculation method for the detection of syphilis called the “Hinton Test.” Dr. Hinton is also the first African American to hold a professorship at Harvard University. He attended the University of Kansas from 1900-1902 and then transferred to Harvard, graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1912. From 1921-1946, he taught bacteriology and immunology at Harvard before being promoted to clinical professor in 1949.

Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)   First Black professional nurse in the United States (1879). Mary’s parents moved from North Carolina to Boston, where she was born on April 16, 1845. In Boston, black children were not permitted to attend schools with whites until 1855, and even in New England, domestic service was the only way for a Negro woman to make a living. Interested in a nursing career from the age of eighteen, Mary was a “nurse” for several prominent white families prior to entering formal nurse training. On March 23, 1878, she was the “first coloured girl admitted” (Medical and Nursing Record Book, 1878) to the nurse training program at the New England Hospital for Women and Children; she graduated sixteen months later at the age of thirty-four. (Note: Mahoney’s biographer, Helen Miller, was Associate Professor of Nursing Research at North Carolina Central University.)

Dr. David Satcher

  • 16th Surgeon General of the United States, sworn in Feb. 13, 1998
  • Director of Center for Disease Control (CDC), Nov. 15, 1993 until being sworn in as Surgeon General. While at CDC, he increased childhood immunization rates from 55% in 1992 to 78% in 1996.
  • President, Meharry Medical College, 1982-1993
  • Elected in 1986 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

 Dr. Ben Carson

  • Director (at age 32), Pediatric Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.
  • Separated Siamese twins joined at the cranium in 1987. A 70-member surgical team, led by Dr. Carson, operated for 22 hours.
  • Graduate of Yale University; MD, University of Michigan School of Medicine.
  • Described in his autobiography, Gifted Hands (1990), as an unmotivated child from the Detroit ghetto.

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895?)   First African American female to earn a medical degree, 1864 (New England Female Medical College, Boston). Note: Controversial with Rebecca J. Cole, (1846-1922) who received a medical degree from Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1867.

These are just a few of the notable African Americans that have made contributions to our medical community!

 Your Parish Nurse,  Kara