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Black History Month 2020: 10 Medical Pioneers Who Changed History

February is Black History Month, and it is a time to appreciate the incredible contributions that African American figures have made to better our society. In honor of this month, we’d like to acknowledge the remarkable advancements that the medical community has seen in the last hundred years thanks to countless African Americans. Here are 10 medical pioneers that everyone should acknowledge and appreciate not only in February but year-round.

#1: James Smith, MD

James Smith was the first black man to practice medicine with an M.D. in the United States. While he earned his degree in Scotland, he came to the U.S. shortly after academic completion and began practicing. Not only did he accomplish this major achievement, but he was also the first black man to successfully open and operate his own pharmacy. He was widely known for using his professional position to advocate for increased equality in medicine.

#2: Lonnie Bristow, MD

Bristow is known for being the first black physician elected to be the president of the American Medical Association in the year 1994. Dr. Bristow joined the association in 1968. This was shortly after the organization began allowing black members. 

#3: Charles Drew, MD

Charles Drew was the first doctor to properly utilize blood plasma to store blood for later transfusions. He organized the first large scale blood-bank during World War II. He later went on to become the first black examiner for the American Board of Surgery.

#4: Alexa Canady, MD

Alexa Canady was the first black female neurosurgeon in the year 1981. She eventually assumed the role of chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Her department has since gained national recognition and impeccable rankings for its pediatric neurosurgery capabilities while under her watch.

#5: Rebecca Crumpler, MD

Rebecca Crumpler was the first black woman to receive a medical degree from a U.S. college. This was accomplished at a time in United States history when women everywhere had wildly limited opportunities, let alone a woman of color.

#6: Alexander Augusta, MD

Alexander Augusta was the first black physician to be the director of a U.S. hospital. Dr. Augusta was also the first commissioned black surgeon in the U.S. Army, due to being drafted in the Civil War. He later became the director of Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C.

#7: Patricia Bath, MD

Patricia Bath was the first black female physician who was awarded a patent for her unique medical invention. She invented a new device and technique for cataract surgery. This device is known as the Laserphaco, for which she received a patent.

#8: Daniel Williams, MD

Daniel Williams was among the first physicians to execute open-heart surgery. He also founded the first interracial and black-owned hospital. He has been a champion of racial equality in medicine, fighting for increased quality of care in hospitals.  Additionally, he was the first black member of the American College of Surgeons and went on to co-develop the National Medical Association.

#9: Herbert Nickens, MD

Hebert Nickens was the very first officer of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was appointed in 1986. He spearheaded a project called Project 3000 by 2000, which increased racial diversity in medical schools drastically.

#10: Jane Wright, MD

 Jane Wright was the first woman to be elected president of the New York Cancer Society. She greatly advanced cancer treatment and chemotherapy research projects. She developed a revolutionary non-surgical technique for catheter insertion that makes the delivery of cancer treatment more effective and targeted.

You Can Make a Difference in the Medical Field Too…

The medical field would never have experienced such progress without the hard work and sacrifices of the individuals listed above. While it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the successes of the past, at Woodruff Medical Training and Testing School, we work hard every day to advance the future of medicine as well. With our Medical Assistant program, you can help contribute to this success and make a difference in this important industry.

Learn more about becoming a medical assistant today!

Start your medical career today. Call 1-833-WMT-4-EDU