What do Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Dr. Charles Richard Drew, Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN, Dr. Mae C. Jameson, & Dr. Minnie Jocelyn Elders all have in common? As we celebrate Black History Month, and the contributions of African Americans to health care in the United States, these dedicated African American medical professionals were all pioneers not just as people of color, but as scientists and health care providers.
Dr. Williams performed the first ever successful open heart surgery in 1893. Dr. Drew was the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank. Mary Eliza Mahoney, in 1879, became the first Black professional nurse in the United States. Dr. Jameson, in 1992, became the first Black female astronaut, and in addition to her groundbreaking research on vaccines, brought her research on materials processing and life sciences to space. Dr. Elders was the first African American to serve as Surgeon General of the United States.
The rich history of research, clinical care, and innovation that comes from the African American community continues to shape the future of health care in the United States.