NMA Celebrates Black History Month
During the month of February 2013, the National Medical Association (NMA) will recognize four black Americans that made significant contributions to the art and science of medicine.
Featuring: Dr. James McCune Smith
James McCune Smith, M.D. was born in New York City in 1811. He is recognized as the first African American to obtain a medical degree. As a young lad, Smith attended the New African Free School on Mulberry Street established by the Manumission Society. According to the New-York Historical Society, this school was, “devoted to the education of black boys and girls as preparation for life as free citizens.” Additionally, it was also a core belief of the school that, “education would be an essential component in helping blacks to improve their position in American society”. Many abolitionist, academics, and entrepreneurs grew out of that school, including Smith. While attending the New African Free School, Smith was recognized for his natural oratory and academic potential however, life post matriculation was encased in an era when many racial inferiority myths against people of color existed. Fortunately, Smith through the financial sponsorship of a clergyman earned his medical degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. As soon as he graduated, he returned to New York and entered into the practice of medicine. Additionally, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that Dr. Smith also owned two pharmacies.
Dr. Smith practiced medicine for 25 years. However, his life’s work expanded outside of medicine to include abolitionism, collaborating with the likes of Frederick Douglass. Dr. Smith’s journey shows the benefits of investing in the education of youth and the result of investments in the area of higher learning.
Journal of the National Medical Association. 1952 March; 44(2): 160–162
Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Vol. 62, No 2. March 1970
New-York Historical Society Museum & Library
Mapping the African American Past
During the month of the February 2012, the National Medical Association (NMA) recognized four black Americans that made phenomenal contributions to the art and science of medicine.
Featured: Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D.
Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, M.D., was born Norfolk, Virginia in 1890. She graduated from Tufts Medical College at the age of 37 and as with many young health care professionals of African descent born during that tense racial era, this consistent honor roll student was denied professional access into predominantly white hospitals. Determined, she moved to Washington DC for an internship at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital). Dr. Ferebee was actively involved in countless organizations until her death at the age of 90. Here are some of her life's work: Founder of the Southeast Settlement House; 10th President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc; President of the National Council of Negro Women; Medical Director of the Mississippi Health Project; Vice President of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of the District of Columbia; Vice President of the Washington Urban League; Chair of the Washington Community Chest; Chair of the Women’s Division of the United Negro College Fund; Board Member of D.C. Social Hygiene Society, the Washington Housing Association and the Council of Social Agencies. This phenomenal woman truly personified excellence, hence her acknowledgement during Black History Month.
Featured: Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D. was born in Delaware in 1831. Dr. Crumpler is recognized frequently in history books as the first African American woman to earn a doctor of science degree. According to National Library of Medicine (NLM), she graduated in 1863 from the New England Female Medical College. Crumpler in her published writing entitled, “Book of Medical Discourses,” mentioned observing the aunt who raised her, skillfully care for the sick and credits that experience for awakening a passion for the field of medicine. Additionally, she cared for newly freed slaves after the Civil War while living in Richmond, Virginia. After several years there, she relocated to Boston with her husband, where according to Partners of the Heart, “Crumpler established a practice at 67 Joy Street dedicated to serving women and children, especially through nutrition and preventative medicine.” Due to her literary and medical services, Dr. Crumpler is duly recognized during Black History Month.
Sources: National Library of Medicine (NLM) &
Featured: Daniel Hale Williams, M.D.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, January 18, 1858 to Daniel and Sara Price Williams. Eight years after graduating from Northwestern medical school in 1883, he founded the Provident Hospital historically known as the first hospital in the United States operated by Negroes.
Known for his meticulous attention to technical detail, Dr. Williams has been famed as the first physician to operate on the human heart, and received significant recognition of being the only Negro to be admitted to the American College of Surgeons at the time of its formation in 1913. His surgical notoriety was compounded by the fact he was black.
Extracts from W. Montague Cobb’s article in the Journal of the National Medical Association Vol. 45, No 5 September 1953.
To download the entire article – click here.
Featured: Charles R. Drew, M.D.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew was born in Washington, DC on June 3, 1904. He earned his doctor of science degree from Columbia University in 1940. Dr. Drew’s contribution to the art and science of medicine include, “the science of extracting plasma from blood for transfusions, which saved many lives on WWII battlefields and for which Drew is most recognized throughout the world. His other seminal contributions to surgical science included a better understanding of causation of shock and accurate measurement and replacement of fluids, electrolytes and blood.”
During the month of the February, the National Medical Association (NMA) will recognize four black Americans that made phenomenal contributions to the art and science of medicine.
Extracts from Eddie L. Hoover, M.D.’s Editor Column, of the Journal of the National Medical Association Vol.97, No 6, June 2005.
To download the entire article – click here.