Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Medical Pioneers: Honoring Contributions of Black Americans

Connecticut Children’s is committed to strengthening our culture related to diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure team members, patients, families and community partners all feel respected and a sense of belonging within our organization. As part of that, we recognize the importance of honoring medical pioneers – physicians, surgeons, nurses and scientists – whose groundbreaking achievements and helped pave the way to where we are today in the healthcare field.

This month, as part of our Black History Month celebration, we honor the Black men and women who served as trailblazers in their fields. The names listed below are just some of the many medical pioneers who have had a profound impact on healthcare and American history.

  • Dr. Alexa Irene Canady made history as the first Black woman neurosurgeon in the U.S. in 1981. Dr. Canady completed her surgical residency at the University of Minnesota. Learn more about Dr. Canady.
  • Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first Black woman in the United States to receive a medical degree in 1864. She earned her degree from the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts. Learn more about Dr. Crumpler.
  • Dr. Charles Drew developed methods of storing blood plasma for transfusion. Dr. Drew is also credited with organizing the first large-scale blood bank in the U.S. and is known as the father of blood banking. Learn more about Dr. Drew.
  • Dr. William Augustus Hinton became the first Black physician to publish a textbook, Syphilis and Its Treatment, in 1936. He is also the first Black physician to hold a professorship at Harvard University. Learn more about Dr. Hinton.
  • Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN became the first Black registered nurse in the United States in 1879. Mahoney graduated from a program in New England. Learn more about nurse Mahoney.
  • Dr. James McCune Smith became the first Black American to receive a medical degree in 1837. He earned the degree from the University of Glasgow Medical School. He was also the first Black person to own a pharmacy in the U.S. and was the first Black physician to be published in U.S. medical journals. Learn more about Dr. Smith.
  • Dr. Daniel Hale Williams is credited with performing the first successful open heart surgery in 1893. Dr. Williams also founded the first Black-owned hospital in the U.S. two years earlier. In addition, he founded the National Medical Association and served as a charter member of the American College of Surgeons. Learn more about Dr. Williams.

Read additional posts in this series – Medical Pioneers: Honoring the Contributions of Women and Medical Pioneers: Honoring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

As we move forward, we have much to learn from the accomplishments of the above-mentioned professionals. We are fortunate that their scientific contributions and leadership advanced knowledge, opened doors and saved lives – an impact still recognized, appreciated and honored in healthcare today.

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