Black History in Medical Field

Black Doctors Columbus Ohio
  Medical Professionals
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 helped form the National Medical Association in 1895 (Negroes were denied membership in the American Medical Association) and was a charter member of the American College of Surgeons (first and only Negro member for many years) in 1913. (SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online; information and photo)
Dr. William Augustus Hinton (1883-1959) First Negro physician to publish a textbook - Syphilis and Its Treatment, 1936. Known internationally for his development of a flocculation method for the detection of syphilis called the "Hinton Test." Dr. Hinton is also the first Negro to hold a professorship at Harvard University. (SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online; information and photo)
Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) Charles Drew was a pioneer researcher in blood plasma for transfusion and in the development of blood banks. He was the first Director, American Red Cross Blood Bank, Professor, Howard University, and Chief Surgeon, Freedmen's Hospital. The U.S. Postal Service issued a Commemorative Stamp with his portrait in 1981. (SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online; information and photo)
James Derham (1762-1802?) First recognized Black physician in the United States - Born a slave in Philadelphia, his early masters taught him the fundamentals of reading and writing. Derham was owned by a number of doctors, ending up in New Orleans with a Scottish physician, who hired him in 1783 to perform medical services. When he was 21, he bought his freedom and went to New Orleans where he set up his own medical practice. He was invited to Philadelphia in 1788 to meet Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Rush was so impressed with Derham's success in treating diphtheria patients, that he read Durham's paper on the subject before the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. In 1789, Durham returned to New Orleans, where he saved more yellow fever victims than any other physician in colonial Philadelphia. During an epidemic that killed thousands, he lost only 11 of 64 patients. He moved back to New Orleans and was lauded by prominent local doctors. Despite his skill, his ability to save so many lives, and his flourishing practice, his practice was restricted in 1801 by new city regulations because he did not have a formal medical degree. He disappeared after 1802. The idea that Black people were incapable of understanding medicine remained widespread for decades. (SOURCE: African-American Registry)
Dr. James McCune Smith (1813-1865) First African-American to earn a medical degree, 1837 (University of Glasgow, Scotland). Not only the first black American to obtain a medical degree, he was a prominent abolitionist and suffragist, compassionate physician, prolific writer, and public intellectual. He was denied admission to colleges in the United States, his native land, and earned his medical, master's, and baccalaureate degrees at Glasgow University in Scotland. On his return to New York City in 1837, Smith became the first black physician to publish articles in US medical journals. Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, and John Brown personally collaborated with James McCune Smith in the fight for black freedom. As the learned physician-scholar of the abolition movement, Smith was instrumental in making the overthrow of slavery credible and successful.(SOURCE: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health)
Dr. David Jones Peck (1826-1855) first black man to graduate from an American medical school, 1847 (Rush Medical College in Chicago ). Between 1844 and 1846 David Peck studied medicine under Dr. Joseph P. Gaszzam, an anti-slavery white doctor in Pittsburgh. He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1846, three years after the institution opened. After he graduated in 1847, Peck toured the state of Ohio with William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass promoting abolitionist ideals. His status as the first black graduate of a medical college was used by abolitionists to promote the idea of full black citizenship and was implicitly an attack on slavery. In 1849 Peck established his practice in Philadelphia. Peck's medical practice, however, was not successful. Few doctors recognized his status, referred patients to him, or consulted with him. (SOURCE:
Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926) First Black professional nurse in the United States (1879). 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. (SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online; information and photo)
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) First Negro female to earn a medical degree, 1863 - Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D. was born in Delaware in 1831. Dr. Crumpler is recognized frequently in history books as the first African American woman to earn a doctor of science degree. According to National Library of Medicine (NLM), she graduated in 1863 from the New England Female Medical College. Crumpler in her published writing entitled, “Book of Medical Discourses,” mentioned observing the aunt who raised her, skillfully care for the sick and credits that experience for awakening a passion for the field of medicine. Additionally, she cared for newly freed slaves after the Civil War while living in Richmond, Virginia. After several years there, she relocated to Boston with her husband, where according to Partners of the Heart, “Crumpler established a practice at 67 Joy Street dedicated to serving women and children, especially through nutrition and preventative medicine.” (SOURCE: National Medical Association)
Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts (1917-2004) Dr. Watts spent more than 50 years advocating for civil and human rights and for the quality of medical care for all residents of Durham, especially the poor and underserved. He broke racial barriers when he pushed for certification of black medical students. (SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online; information and photo)
Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D. (1898-1980) Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D., was born Norfolk, Virginia. She graduated from Tufts Medical College at the age of 37 and as with many young health care professionals of African descent born during that tense racial era, this consistent honor roll student was denied professional access into predominantly white hospitals. Determined, she moved to Washington DC for an internship at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital). Dr. Ferebee was actively involved in countless organizations until her death at the age of 90. Here are some of her life's work: Founder of the Southeast Settlement House; 10th President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc; President of the National Council of Negro Women; Medical Director of the Mississippi Health Project; Vice President of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of the District of Columbia; Vice President of the Washington Urban League; Chair of the Washington Community Chest; Chair of the Women’s Division of the United Negro College Fund; Board Member of D.C. Social Hygiene Society, the Washington Housing Association and the Council of Social Agencies. (SOURCE: National Medical Association)
Samuel L. Kountz, M.D. (1930-1981) was an African American kidney transplantation surgeon from Lexa, Arkansas. He was most distinguished for his pioneering work in the field of kidney transplantations, and in research, discoveries, and inventions in Renal Science. In 1961, while working with Dr. Roy Cohn at the Stanford University Medical Center, he performed the first successful Kidney transplant between humans who were not identical twins. Six years later, he and a team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, developed the prototype for the Belzer kidney perfusion machine, a device that can preserve kidneys for up to 50 hours from the time they are taken from a donor's body. It is now standard equipment in hospitals and research laboratories around the world. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
  Black Medical Schools/Medical Education
SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online

Pre-1865: Medical schools were closed to Negroes in the south and to a lesser degree in the north. Because of the color line in medicine, the first few Negro physicians received their medical degrees abroad. A few older medical schools in the east admitted some Negroes; namely, Harvard, Yale, and Pennsylvania. In the Midwest, Indiana, Northwestern, and Michigan accepted some Negro medical students.

  • 1847: First Negro medical student graduated from a northern medical school -- David J. Peck (Rush Medical School, Chicago).

  • 1849: Bowdoin Medical School in Maine awarded medical degrees to John V. De Grasse and Thomas J. White.

  • 1858: Berkshire Medical School in Massachusetts awarded two medical degrees to Negroes.

  • 1860: By 1860, at least nine northern medical schools admitted Negroes: Bowdoin in Maine, the Medical School of the University of New York, Caselton Medical School in Vermont, Berkshire Medical School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Rush Medical School in Chicago, the Eclectic Medical School of Philadelphia, the Homeopathic College of Cleveland, the American Medical College, and the Medical School of Harvard University.


Post -1865: Seven medical schools for blacks were established between 1868 and 1904.

  • In 1895, there were 385 Negro doctors, only 7% from white medical schools.

  • In 1905, there were 1,465 Negro doctors, only 14.5% from white medical schools.

  • Almost 2,400 physicians were graduated from Howard and Meharry medical schools from 1890 to the end of WWI.

  • Howard University Medical School, established 1868- Washington, DC

  • Meharry Medical College, established 1876- Nashville, TN

  • Leonard Medical School (Shaw University), 1882-1914 Raleigh, NC

  • New Orleans University Medical College, 1887-1911 New Orleans, LA
    (Renamed Flint Medical College)

  • Chattanooga National Medical College, established 1902-1908 Chattanooga, TN

  • Knoxville College Medical Department, 1895-1900 Knoxville, TN
    (Became Knoxville Medical College in 1900 and closed in 1910)

  • University of West Tennessee College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1904-1923 Memphis, TN

  • By 1923, only Howard University Medical School and Meharry Medical School remained.
  The Black Hospital Movement (1865 - 1960's)
SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center Library Online


  • A place for negro physicians to treat patients and improve skills through lectures, workshops, and training sessions

  • Negroes (doctors and patients) were excluded from most hospitals

  • To offset the inequities with respect to health care facilities and practices

  • The lack of negro hospitals contributed to the poor health status of the colored community

  • Black physicians saw black hospitals as a larger part of a general movement to improve the social standing of colored society
  • Establishment of the Freedmen's Bureau and it's medical division

  • Hospitals, dispensaries, and other health care facilities were established in the larger cities, especially in the south

  • Self-help and philanthropic support

  • The move from exclusion to segregation in hospital care

  • The establishment of separate (but not equal) asylums, poorhouses, homes for children, institutions for the deaf and dumb, and adjuncts to city and county hospitals and infirmaries

  • The emergence of the black hospital
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