Black History Month And American Heart Month: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Since February is Black History Month and American Heart Month, I thought writing an article commemorating both is appropriate.
Daniel Hale Williams, an African American, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pa on January 18, 1856. He died on August 4, 1931, at Idlewild, Michigan, at the age of 75.
Dr. Williams studied medicine at Chicago Medical College via Northwestern University. After earning his medical degree in 1883, he became one of Chicago’s first black physicians. This was a considerable accomplishment for a black man during the post Civil War era.
Dr. Williams is called “the father of black surgery” and is most remembered for the open-heart surgery he performed on July 9, 1893, in Chicago. A man had suffered a serious stab wound close to his heart in an area called the pericardium. The pericardium is multi-layered tissue that surrounds the heart and the adjacent large blood vessels. Using his cardinal skills, Dr. Williams repaired the injury and saved the man’s life. While being a major medical milestone, it was also only the second successful surgery of its kind, performed in the United States.
In 1891, Dr. Williams opened the Provident Hospital and Training School. It was the nation’s first exclusively black-owned and operated hospital in the country. The hospital was extremely progressive for its time, employing an interracial staff and training African American women as nurses.
Dr. Williams made other notable contributions to the medical profession. He worked for a short time in Washington, D.C at Freedmen’s Hospital, where he improved medical practices and began its first nursing school. He helped establish the National Medical Association in Atlanta, Georgia. He conducted yearly, pro-bono visits to Meharry Medical College as a clinical professor of surgery, and he published nine scientific papers.
Despite his outstanding achievements, Dr. Williams’ name cannot be found in many medical history books. This is a shame, not only for the black community but also for the United States as a whole. We should honor every professional who has made exemplary contributions to our society. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was a man with true heart, who overcame adversity to reach his full potential. His story is like so many other successful American’s stories who achieved their dreams. In a time when our country’s cultural identity is being questioned, Dr. Williams’ story reminds us of what the United States stands for, and it deserves to be heard.