1783 – Dr. James Durham, born into slavery in 1762, buys his freedom and begins his own medical practice in New Orleans, becoming the first “colored” doctor in the United States. As a youngster, he was owned by a number of doctors, who taught him how to read and write, mix medicines, and serve and work with patients. Durham had a flourishing medical practice in New Orleans until 1801, when the city restricted his practice because he did not have a formal medical degree.
1788 – Dr. James Durham is invited to Philadelphia to meet Dr. Benjamin Rush, who wanted to investigate Durham’s reported success in treating patients with diphtheria. Dr. Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of America’s foremost physicians, was so impressed that he personally read Durham’s paper on diphtheria before the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Durham returned to New Orleans in 1789, where he saved more yellow fever victims than any other physician – during an epidemic that killed thousands, he lost 11 of 64 patients.
1837 – Dr. James McCune Smith graduates from the University of Glasgow, becoming the first “colored” person to earn a medical degree.
1852 – The Jackson Street Hospital, in Augusta, GA, is established as the first institution of record solely for the care of “colored” patients. The founders were a group of charitable minded whites led by Dr. Henry Fraser Campbell of the University of Georgia School of Medicine. There was no “colored” staff in this three story structure, which housed fifty beds, operating quarters, and a lecture hall.
1862 – Freedmen’s Hospital is established in Washington, D.C., and is the only federally-funded health care facility for “colored” people in the nation.
1864 – Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first “colored” female to earn a medical degree, graduates from New England Female Medical College, Boston.
1867 – Robert Tanner Freeman, born in 1847 to slave parents in North Carolina, is one of the first six graduates in dental medicine from Harvard University, thus becoming the first “colored” man to receive an education in dentistry and a dental degree from an American medical school.
1868 – Howard University School of Medicine is established in Washington, D.C. to educate “colored” doctors. Notably, the school welcomes both “Negro” and white students, including women.
1881 – The first school of record for “colored” student nurses is established at Spelman College in Atlanta.
1891 – Dr. Daniel Hale Williams establishes the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Chicago, the first “colored”-owned and first interracial hospital in the United States.
1893 – Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performs the first successful operation on a human heart at Provident Hospital. The patient, a victim of a chest stab wound, survived and lived a normal life for twenty years after the operation.
1895 – The National Medical Association is founded in Atlanta, GA, since “colored” people are barred from other established medical groups.
1900 – The Washington Society of Colored Dentists, the first organization of “colored” dentists, is founded in Washington, D.C.
1936 – Dr. William Augustus Hinton’s book, Syphilis and Its Treatment, is the first medical textbook written by a Negro to be published.
1940 – Dr. Charles R. Drew presents his thesis, “Banked Blood,” at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. The thesis covers two years of blood research, including the discovery that plasma could replace whole blood transfusions.
1975 – Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, is the only black medical school founded in the United States during the 20th century. Since its establishment, the school has sent more than 700 doctors, mostly black, to provide health care in impoverished parts of the country, especially to poorer black communities where access to medical care has traditionally been in short supply.
Dr. Louis Sullivan, who became the first dean and president of Morehouse School of Medicine, is also noted as the first black male to head the Department of Health & Human Services.
1986 – Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston’s study of sickle-cell disease led to a nationwide screening program to test newborns for immediate treatment.
1987 – Dr. Ben Carson, neurosurgeon, leads a seventy-member surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD in the separation of Siamese twins joined at the cranium.
1993 – Dr. Joycelyn Elders is the first African American to be appointed as U.S. Surgeon General.
1994 – Reginald Ware publishes Heart & Soul magazine, which is the nation’s first healthy lifestyle magazine for African Americans.
2000 – The nation’s largest group of African-American physicians, the National Medical Association (NMA), charge that many managed care plans effectively discriminate against them
2005 – Reginald Ware creates BlackDoctor. org as the nation’s first health website dedicated to the culturally specific health and wellness needs of African Americans.