Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman was the first African American dentist to receive a degree in the United States. He graduated from the Harvard University Dental School in 1869.Â He and George Lewis Ruffin (Law School) share the distinction of being the first African Americans to graduate from Harvard University. Freeman was born in Washington, D.C. to former slaves from North Carolina, and as a young man was hired by a local dentist, Dr. Henry Bliss Noble.
He began as a clerk and became a dental assistant. Dr. Nobel encouraged him to pursue a career in dentistry as a way to help alleviate the sufferings of other blacks.Freeman applied to, and was rejected by, two colleges before he was accepted, in 1867, as one of the sixteen members of the inaugural class at the newly formed Harvard Dental School.
His fellow classmates included another African American, George Franklin Grant. Upon graduation in 1869 he returned to Washington, D.C. to set up private practice in the same building as his previous employer and mentor.Freeman died four years later.Â Continue reading
Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. is a pioneer in brain surgical techniques; however, he is best known for leading the first surgical team that successfully separated a pair of Siamese twins joined at the head. Despite struggling with school as a child, he won a scholarship to Yale and received a bachelor’s degree.
He became the first black person accepted into the residency program at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and after spending a year in Australia, Carson was promoted to Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins in 1984. At 31, he was the youngest doctor to hold such a position.
Carson has been the recipient of numerous awards for his pioneering role and development of brain surgery techniques.
Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American nurse to study and work professionally in the United States. She was also a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms.
Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1845 (her exact birthday is unknown), to Charles and Mary Jane Sterwart Mahoney. She grew up with her parents, a sister and one brother in Boston, Massachusetts where her interest in nursing began as a teenager. Continue reading
Jane Cooke Wright was born in New York City in 1919. Her father, Corinne Cooke Wright is well known for his cancer research, and being a civil rights leader and cancer researcher.
Jane graduated from Smith College in 1942. She graduated from New York Medical School in 1945. She interned and did her residency at Bellevue Hospital and Harlem Hospital respectfully from 1945 to 1947.
Wright worked with her father at the Harlem Cancer Research Foundation from 1947 to 1952. She researched cancer chemotherapy here. Jane was named director of Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation in 1952. She became an instructor and director of cancer research at the New York Medical School. Wright was named associate dean of the school and became the first black physician to do so. Currently she is a professor emeritus at the school.