25 Medical Pioneers to Celebrate
Having diverse caregivers — reflective of the communities we serve — is part of what makes our health system such a special place for our patients and each other. As Black History Month comes to an end, we want to draw attention to some of the African Americans who not only pioneered healthcare, but helped shape it.
- Alexander Augusta, M.D.
First black physician appointed director of a U.S. hospital.
- Patricia Bath, M.D.
First black female physician awarded a patent for a medical invention.
- Regina Marcia Benjamin, M.D.
First chair of the National Prevention Council.
- Leonidas Harris Berry, M.D.
First black physician on staff at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.
- Robert Boyd, M.D.
President and co-founder of the first professional organization for black physicians.
- Lonnie Bristow, M.D.
First black physician elected president of the American Medical Association.
- Alexa Canady, M.D.
First black female neurosurgeon.
- Ben Carson, M.D.
First neurosurgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins attached at the back of the head.
- Donna Christian-Christensen, M.D.
First female physician elected to Congress.
- Rebecca Crumpler, M.D.
First black woman awarded a medical degree from a U.S. college.
- Helen Dickens, M.D.
First black woman admitted to the American College of Surgeons.
- Charles Drew, M.D.
First to use blood plasma to store blood for transfusion.
- Joycelyn Elders, M.D.
First black female physician appointed surgeon general.
- Roselyn Epps, M.D.
First black president of the American Medical Women's Association.
- Kenneth Frazier, JD.
First black man to lead a major pharmaceutical company.
- Solomon Fuller, M.D.
First black psychiatrist recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
- Marilyn Gaston, M.D.
First black female director of an U.S. Public Health Service bureau.
- William Hinton, M.D.
First black physician to teach at Harvard Medical School.
- Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., MBA.
First black female president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- Mary Mahoney, RN.
First black woman awarded a nursing degree.
- Herbert W. Nickens, M.D.
First director of the HHS Office of Minority Health.
- James Smith, M.D.
First black man to practice with a medical degree in the U.S.
- Louis Wade Sullivan, M.D.
The only black student in his class at Boston University School of Medicine.
- Daniel Hale Williams, M.D.
One of the first physicians to perform a successful open-heart surgery; founded the first interracial and black-owned hospital.
- Jane Wright, M.D.
First woman elected president of the New York Cancer Society.
These are just a select few of the celebration-worthy African American medical pioneers throughout our country’s history. Their contributions to the medical field have not only provided leaps in insight, but also forged the way to further open doors for minorities.