Happy National Doctor's Day to the men and women who stand on the front lines of the medical industry daily. Providers are a vital part of everyday life and are a lifeline to many patients who rely on these hardworking professionals in the healthcare system. Young Black Americans who are seeking careers as nurses, doctors and specialists are following in the footsteps of talented Black pioneers who have been changing the medical industry for nearly two centuries.
In honor of National Doctors' Day on March 30, here are five Black physicians whose perseverance and success revolutionized the healthcare system.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Born in 1856, Dr. Williams began his surgical career in Chicago, Illinois, in the late 1800s. Dr. Williams established the very first Black-owned non-segregated hospital in the United States after racism prevented him from working in already existing hospitals in the area. Most notably, he performed the first successful case of open-heart surgery in July 1893, cementing his legacy as the first Black cardiologist in the U.S.
Dr. Jane Cooke Wright
Dr. Wright began her medical career by collaborating with her father, Dr. Louis Wright, at the Cancer Research Foundation in Harlem, New York. After her father’s death, she led the foundation and created techniques to test chemotherapy drugs on real human tissue. In 1971, she became the first woman to hold the position of president of the New York Cancer Society, and her research contributed to the success of chemotherapeutic treatments in patients.
Dr. Ben Carson
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Carson’s academic talents were recognized with a scholarship to Yale University and later a leading role in neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Maryland. He continued his trailblazing success when he performed the first successful operation to separate conjoined twins in 1987 and followed this same success with another set of conjoined twins a decade later. He retired from his career in medicine as a well-established professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2013, and he ran for President of the United States in 2016.
Dr. Louis Wade Sullivan
Dr. Sullivan was inspired at an early age by his own Black doctor, one of the few Black professionals around in his Southern hometown. One of Dr. Sullivan's most well-known accomplishments was being elected dean of the newly established Morehouse School of Medicine, the first Black-oriented medical school of its kind, in 1975. He continued to give back to his community by founding the Sullivan Alliance in 2005, which is committed to boosting diverse representation in healthcare services.
Dr. Alexa Irene Canady
Born in 1950, Dr. Canady persevered through hardships in college and became the first African American female neurosurgeon in the U.S. She practiced at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, eventually following her success by becoming chief of neurosurgery for the hospital. Dr. Canady later continued her career part-time at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, and was praised for her attentiveness to patients.