African Americans Pioneers in Healthcare
The following African Americans have contributed significantly to healthcare in the United States.
Dr. Patricia Bath, 1942 - 2019. Dr. Patricia Bath discovered and invented a new device and technique for cataract surgery known as laserphaco. Patricia E. Bath, an ophthalmologist and laser scientist, was an innovative research scientist and advocate for blindness prevention, treatment, and cure. Her accomplishments include the invention of a new device and technique for cataract surgery known as laserphaco, the creation of a new discipline known as "community ophthalmology," and appointment as the first woman chair of ophthalmology in the United States, at Drew-UCLA in 1983.
Dr. Charles Drew, 1904 – 1950, was an African American physician renowned for his work in blood plasma preservation. Drew's research into the storage, processing, and shipment of blood plasma saved the lives of hundreds of Britons during World War II. His work continues to save lives today.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, (1856-1931), the first doctor to perform a successful heart operation, was born on this day in Holidaysburg, PA. Dr. Williams was the surgeon who helped to establish Provident Hospital, the country's first interracial hospital, in Chicago. He was trained at Chicago Medical School, where he earned his medical degree in 1883. In 1893, he performed a heart operation, a procedure formerly thought impossible. Because of the open-heart surgery, his fame and skill as a surgeon became widely known. As a result, Williams was called to Washington to reorganize the Freedmen's Hospital of Howard University in 1894. He assembled a staff of 20 specialists and organized the medical college into departments; the first nursing school was created at Freedmen's under his leadership.
Dr. James McCune Smith (1813 - 1865)
James McCune Smith was the first African American to earn a medical degree and practice medicine in the United States. He was also the first to own and operate a pharmacy, in New York City. Smith was born on April 18, 1813, in New York City to parents who were former slaves. New York's Emancipation Act freed his father, and his mother worked her way out of bondage. Smith began his education at the African Free School in New York City, but soon found he could go no further in U.S. education due to racial discrimination. So, Smith crossed the Atlantic and studied instead at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, where racial prejudice was less oppressive. There, he received a bachelor's degree in 1835, a master's degree in 1836, and his medical degree in 1837.
Image Source: Recollections of Seventy Years by Daniel Alexander Payne (1811-1893), published in 1888.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, 1831 – 1895, challenged the prejudice that prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine to become the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, a distinction formerly credited to Rebecca Cole.
Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845 - 1926)
Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first black professional nurse in America, and an active organizer among African American nurses.
Mahoney was one of the first black members of the organization that later became the American Nurses Association (A.N.A.). When that later organization proved slow to admit black nurses, Mahoney strongly supported the establishment of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (N.A.C.G.N.), and delivered the welcome address at that organization's first annual convention, in 1909.