Monday, April 22, 2024

Black History Month; Black Surgery Pioneer (Daniel Hale Williams)

February 9, 2010 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Daniel Hale Williams is an African-American cardiologist, who in 1893, made a “ground-breaking?” achievement. On July 9, 1893, before such surgeries were even established, Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery. Many people were astounded by his achievement, and some people were even inspired by it. Williams was a well-educated surgeon, who saved many lives. He was also known as the founder of the first interracial hospital in the United States of America.

Daniel Hale Williams

In the 1890’s, there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for African-Americans in the medicine profession, so in turn, Williams founded and established the first interracial hospital in the US. The hospital was known as Provident, and was located in Chicago, Illinois. Provident Hospital was established for numerous reasons, but one imperative reason for its establishment was to provide training for black interns in the medical field. At Provident, Williams also felt encouraged to open the first nursing school for African Americans. Williams always had the dream of seeing young black doctors and nurses advancing in the medical profession, and he had a passion for helping them anyway he could.

Williams always stressed the importance of providing the best available care to everyone, so at Provident, he required all doctors and nurses to stay up-to-date with the latest advances in medicine. On various occasions, people were rushed to Provident with life-threatening situations, and Williams would be right there to relieve their illness. On one occasion, he even saved the life of a stockyard laborer, who was suffering from a knife wound to the pericardium (a thin-sac surrounding the heart). He performed open-chest surgery, and saved the victims life, and the significance of this situation is that, many people doubted that an African-American doctor could do such a thing.

The heroic deed of saving the laborers life presented Williams with an opportunity to advance his career at another hospital. So it wouldn’t take long before he would be offered the position of chief surgeon at Washington Freedmen’s Hospital, located in Washington, DC. His presence at the new hospital refurbished the surgical program because he used some of the same techniques and methods that were used at Provident. He staffed the hospital with well-trained and educated specialists who on a day-to-day basis performed at their highest level. Williams also held training sessions at nearby Howard University.

After several years in Washington, DC, Williams would return home to Chicago and take a staff associate position at Mercy and St. Luke’s hospital. It is also noteworthy to mention that upon his return to Chicago, in 1889, he would serve as the first African-American member of the Illinois board of health. Again in 1891, he would serve as a member of the board, and he would later help organize the National Medical Association for Black Doctors. He would then teach at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Williams was always concerned with the training of African-Americans in the medicine profession. So he later began working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he promoted the creation of schools that would give fellow African-Americans an opportunity to develop their skills in medicine. Already suffering from diabetes, he decided to retire at age 62, and would later suffer a paralyzing stroke. In 1931, Williams died at his summer home in Idlewild, Michigan, but his legacy will always be remembered.

Written By Omarr Lee

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