Throughout history, African Americans have faced immense obstacles in their pursuit of a career in medicine. Despite the odds, many have gone on to become pioneers in the field, paving the way for future generations. From James McCune Smith, the first African American to hold a medical degree from the University of Glasgow, to Rebecca Cole, the second African American doctor in the United States, to Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, the first black psychiatrist in the nation, these trailblazers have made an indelible mark on medical history.
James Durham was born into slavery in 1762 and was owned by several doctors who taught him how to read and write, mix medicines, and serve and work with patients. After buying his freedom, he began his own medical practice in New Orleans and became the first African-American doctor in the United States. During an epidemic of yellow fever that killed thousands of people, he saved more victims than any other doctor, losing only 11 of 64 patients. In 1837, James McCune Smith became the first African American to earn a medical degree from the University of Glasgow.
He was an abolitionist and author who wrote extensively about racial inequality in medicine. In 1849, David Jones Peck became the first African-American medical student to graduate from medical school in the United States (Rush Medical College in Chicago). In 1864, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree from New England Female Medical College in Boston. She wrote a book about her experiences as a doctor and her observations on women's health issues.
In 1867, James Francis Shober became the first known African-American doctor with a medical degree practicing in North Carolina when he graduated from Howard University School of Medicine in Washington D. C. In 1879, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first African-American nurse practitioner when she graduated from New England Hospital for Women and Children (now Dimock Community Health Center) in Boston. In 1906, Solomon Carter Fuller was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as the nation's first black psychiatrist when he published the first comprehensive clinical review of all Alzheimer's cases reported so far.
He was also the first to translate into English much of Alois Alzheimer's work on the disease that bears his name. In 1908, Dr. Christy became the world's first African-American osteopathic doctor when he graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. In 1916, Charles Richard Drew presented his thesis on banked blood at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York and discovered that plasma could replace whole blood transfusions.
In 1937, Dr. James E. Dickens became the first African-American woman admitted to the American College of Surgeons. In 1945, Peter Murray Marshall became the first African-American to lead a unit of the American Medical Association when he was installed as president of the New York County Medical Society.
In 1972, Geraldine Pittman Woods became the first African-American woman appointed to National Council for General Medical Counseling Services. In 1986, Marilyn Hughes Gaston's groundbreaking sickle cell disease study led to a national screening program to screen newborns for immediate treatment. In 1987, Louis Wade Sullivan was appointed Secretary of Health & Human Services under President George H. W. Bush and led the creation of the Office of Minority Programs in the Office of Director of National Institutes of Health.
In 1989, LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. became the first African-American president of American Cancer Society and Vivian Pinn was appointed as Director of Office of Women's Health Research at National Institutes of Health. In 1992, Dr. Joycelyn Elders became the first African-American to be named U.
S. UU. Surgeon General and Barbara Ross-Lee was appointed as dean at Ohio University School of Osteopathic Medicine - becoming both the first woman and first African-American dean at a U. School of Medicine. In 1993, Helene Doris Gayle was appointed as director at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - becoming both the first woman and first African-American director at CDC. In 1992, Dr.
Mae Jemison became both the first black female astronaut and first black woman in space as part of SPACELAB J mission - a graduate of Cornell University School of Medicine who had previously worked as area medical officer for Peace Corps in West Africa. In 1995, Dr. Claude Earl Fox was appointed as Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs at Department of Veterans Affairs - becoming both the highest position achieved by an African-American woman in medical administration. In 1996, Dr. David Satcher was appointed as Director at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - becoming both the first African-American director at CDC. In 1997, Dr. Joycelyn Elders was awarded with Springarn Medal for pioneering research on fertilization and cell division. In 1998, Dr.
Claude Earl Fox was awarded with Honorary Doctorate from Livingstone College for his work on degenerative disorders of brain. In 2002, Dr. Joycelyn Elders was awarded with Presidential Medal of Freedom - highest civilian honor awarded by President George W Bush. These pioneers have made an incredible impact on medicine and have opened up opportunities for future generations of African Americans to pursue careers in medicine without facing discrimination or prejudice.