Courtesy of
**FILE** Courtesy of

1721: Onesimus, an enslaved person in Boston, tells his owner about an African procedure used to inoculate against smallpox. His owner, Cotton Mather, went on to inoculate more than 200 people, saving lives during a smallpox epidemic more than 70 years before the smallpox vaccine was officially invented.

1783: James Durham, born into slavery in 1762, becomes the first Black doctor in the U.S. after buying his freedom and starting his own New Orleans practice. He goes on to save more yellow fever victims than any other physician in the city – during the 1789 epidemic that killed thousands, Durham lost 11 of 64 patients.

1868: Howard University School of Medicine is established here in the District to educate Black doctors. Notably, the school welcomes both Black and white students, including women.

1881: The first official nursing school for Black students is established at Spelman College in Atlanta.

1891: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams establishes the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Chicago, the first Black-owned and first interracial hospital in the U.S. Two years later, Hale performs the first ever successful operation on a human heart.

1900: The first organization of Black dental professionals, the Washington Society of Colored Dentists, is founded here in the District.

1936: Dr. William Augustus Hinton becomes the first African American to publish a medical textbook with his book “Syphilis and Its Treatment.”

1986: Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston’s study of sickle-cell disease leads to a nationwide screening program to test newborns for immediate treatment.

1987: At Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson leads a surgical team of 70 people in the first separation of conjoined twins attached at the head.

1993: Dr. Joycelyn Elders is the appointed U.S. Surgeon General, the first African American to hold the position.

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee becomes the first Black woman to serve as Dean for a U.S. medical school at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

1995: Dr. Lonnie Bristow becomes the first Black president of the American Medical Association since its founding in 1947.

2018: Beverly Murphy becomes the first Black president of the Medical Library Association, which had been founded 120 years prior.

2019: Dr. Patrice Harris becomes the first Black woman to lead the American Medical Association as its president. Prior to that appointment, she had headed up the AMA’s task force created to fight the opioid epidemic.

2020: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a lead scientist with the National Institutes of Health, co-leads the COVID-19 research team that developed the Moderna vaccine. That vaccine is estimated to have saved approximately 2 million lives within its first year, according to a 2022 study published by the NIH.

President Joe Biden appoints Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to chair the Presidential COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

Kayla Benjamin

Covers climate change & environmental justice for the Informer as a full-time reporter through the Report for America program. Prior to her time here, she worked at Washingtonian Magazine writing stories...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *