Black History Month is an opportunity to remember contributions in America, big and small. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the achievements of these and other pioneers who have trail blazed a more diverse, equitable and inclusive path forward in the field of healthcare.
James McCune Smith (April 18, 1813 – November 17, 1865)
Known as a physician, apothecary and abolitionist, Dr. James McCune Smith graduated in the top of his class from the University of Glasgow in Scotland after medical schools in the United States would not allow him to enter to study medicine. Upon returning to the States, Dr. Smith opened a pharmacy and started his practice as a physician in Manhattan. Both ventures established him as the first African American pharmacist and physician in the United States.
Rebecca Lee Crumpler (February 8, 1831 – March 9, 1895)
Influenced by an aunt who helped care for sick neighbors, Rebecca Lee Crumpler worked as a nurse for 8 years before she was admitted to New England Female Medical College. Upon graduating in 1864, she was the first African American woman to graduate from the college and became the first African American woman to earn an M.D. degree. Dr. Crumpler’s “Book of Medical Discourses” was one of the first medical publications by an African American in the United States.
Charles Drew (June 3, 1904 – April 1, 1950)
As an American medical researcher and surgeon, Dr. Drew’s research in the field of blood transfusions was instrumental in improving blood bank storage and developing large scale blood storage units for Allied forces during World War II. He was appointed the first American Red Cross Director in February 1941. When US armed forces ruled that blood banks would be segregated based on race, he disagreed with the exclusion and ultimately resigned from the position. Also, he holds the distinction of the first African American surgeon to serve as an examiner on the American Board of Surgery.