Medicine

Medical School at Howard University

howard uOn November 9th, 1868, Howard University opened their medical school with eight students and five faculty members.

Among the eight students, seven were black and one was white. Out of the five faculty members, just one was black, Dr. Alexander Thomas Augusta — the first black Lieutenant Colonel and first Black surgeon in the U.S. Army.  Continue reading

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

From 1932 to 1972, 399 poor black sharecroppers in Macon County, Alabama were denied treatment for syphilis and deceived by physicians of the Unites States Public Health Service. As part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, designed to document the natural history of the disease, these men were told that they were being treated for “bad blood.”

In fact, government officials went to extreme lengths to insure that they received no therapy from any source. As reported by the New York Times on 26 July 1972, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was revealed as “the longest nontherapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.”  Continue reading

Louis T. Wright

Louis T. Wright

1891-1952. A physician and surgeon, Dr. Louis T. Wright originated a method of operating on fractures about the knee joint, a brace for fractures of the spine, and a vaccination against smallpox, and supervised the first test of a miracle drug(aureomycin) on humans. He also advanced a new theory on the treatment of skull fractures and engaged in early cancer research.

Graduating with highest honors from the Harvard Medical School in 1915, he was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Section of the Officers Reserve Corps in 1917, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War I. In 191, he became the first African American to be appointed to a New York City Municipal Hospital(Harlem Hospital) where he helped lower the death rate and increase the professional standards.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler challenged the prejudice that prevented African Americans from pursuing careers in medicine to became the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, a distinction formerly credited to Rebecca Cole.  Although little has survived to tell the story of Crumpler’s life, she has secured her place in the historical record with her book of medical advice for women and children, published in 1883.

Crumpler was born in 1831 in Delaware, to Absolum Davis and Matilda Webber. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors and may have influenced her career choice, raised her. By 1852 she had moved to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where she worked as a nurse for the next eight years (because the first formal school for nursing only opened in 1873, she was able to perform such work without any formal training).

In 1860, she was admitted to the New England Female Medical College. When she graduated in 1864, Crumpler was the first African American woman in the United States to earn an M.D. degree, and the only African American woman to graduate from the New England Female Medical College, which closed in 1873.  Continue reading

Wilcie Elfe

Wilcie Elfe is the earliest known pharmacist.  He graduated from the Avery Normal Institute in Charleston.  Elfe worked at People’s Pharmacy, and his prescription logbook dates back to 1853.

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