Black History: Daniel Hale Williams
Day 8 of 28 of Black History Month. Here’s my Black History blurb today and it wasn’t my intention to make it sound sad…
I’ve always been curious about the practice of medicine in the African American community. Especially when I read stories like Henrietta Lacks’, Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, J. Marion Sims being the Father of Gynecology and the belief of pain absence… I can go on. There are also theories as to why the opioid addiction is overwhelming white, which I can go into another discussion at a later date but essentially I’ve always had to overemphasize what level of pain I was in to get treated at times (doubt it was in my head). Those topics are quite depressing when it applies to African Americans. Even I get paranoid when I’m sick so I do intense research and double check with my Primary Care Doctor, who is African American and has treated me much differently than other doctors I’ve had (her bedside manner is different? Btw, my entire care team is diverse). Well, when you read books like “Black Man in a White Coat,” it gets you thinking.
I came across Dr. Williams story and needed to share it.
Dr. Williams did not enjoy being a shoemaker’s apprentice so he tried being a barber like his father and realized that he would much rather pursue his education. Eventually, he ended up working as an apprentice with Dr. Henry Palmer, a prominent surgeon (according to my research he might’ve been a surgeon in the Union Army during the American Civil War).
Due to the discrimination of the day, African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions.” So in May 1891, Daniel Hale Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. The facility, where Williams worked as a surgeon, was publicly championed by famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.
(I’m often baffled that the idea that every industry should be diverse is still foreign to most.)
Other ways Williams made history:
• He operated on James Cornish’s stab wound to the chest making him one of the first people to perform open-heart surgery
• Adopted sterilization procedures for his office because of studies by Louis Pasteur and a Joseph Lister on germ transmission and prevention.
• Became chief surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C. which provided care for formerly enslaved African Americans in 1894 (the facilities were previously neglected)
• Co-founded the National Medical Association for black medical practitioners since the American Medical Association didn’t allow African American membership.