It’s 2017 and Black doctors only make up about 7.5 percent of the US physician workforce. While there’s still much progress to be made, African Americans already figure significantly in the history of medicine.
Here are 11 African American MDs who made medical history:
1. James McCune Smith: First African American to earn an MD and practice in the United States. Opened what’s thought to be the country’s first African American-owned pharmacy. Used medicine and science to refute slavery’s advocates in his writing.
2. Rebecca Crumpler: Became the first female African American MD in 1864. Treated freed slaves after the Civil War and published one of the first medical books written by an African American.
3. Daniel Hale Williams: Founded Chicago’s Provident Hospital, the country’s first black-owned, interracial hospital, in 1891. Performed the first-ever successful heart surgery two years later.
4. Solomon Carter Fuller: First Black psychiatrist in the United States. Researched degenerative brain disorders with Dr. Alois Alzheimer while in medical school and became an authority on Alzheimer’s Disease research. Published the first comprehensive review of Alzheimer’s cases in 1912.
5. Ernest E. Just: Won the NAACP’s inaugural Spingarn Medal for his research on fertilization and cell division in 1912. A Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in Biology of the National Research Council allowed him to work in Europe to avoid discrimination in the United States.
6. Louis T. Wright: Graduated fourth in his class at Harvard Medical School. While serving in World War I, developed the intradermal injection vaccination technique. In 1948, became the first clinician to study the use of the drug Aureomycin in humans.
7. Jane C. Wright: Oncologist and one of chemotherapy’s pioneers. Daughter of Louis T. Wright.
8. William Augustus Hinton: Developed Hinton Test for diagnosing syphilis and published the first medical textbook by an African American.
9. Charles R. Drew: Discovered that plasma can replace whole blood transfusions. Founded two of the first blood banks. First African American to earn an MD from Columbia University in 1940.
10. Marilyn Hughes Gaston: Published a study of sickle-cell anemia that led to a nationwide test for newborns. First African American and female director of a public health bureau – the US Department of Health and Human Services’s Bureau of Primary Health Care.
11. Jocelyn Elders: Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as the Surgeon General of the US—the first African American and the second woman to hold this post.