With February rolling around, the month brings cold weather, snow, and the hoping for Spring. But February also brings the celebration of Black History Month. GHC-SCW is proud to celebrate Black History Month, acknowledging and appreciating the impact Black people have had on healthcare.
First celebrated in 1926, what was initially Black History Week was expanded into Black History Month in 1976. Black History Month is an annual celebration to lift the accomplishments of Black Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. History.
Throughout American history, our society has greatly benefited from the medical advances and inventions of Black women and men. Below is a list of four Black medical professionals who have created boundless opportunities for themselves and whose advancements continue to save lives every single day.
Daniel Hale Williams, M.D. (1856-1931)
Daniel Hale Williams founded the first Black-owned hospital in America and performed the world’s first successful heart surgery in 1973.
Jane Cooke Wright, M.D. (1919-2013)
Wright, along with her father, helped research chemotherapy drugs that led to remissions in patients with leukemia and lymphoma. She created an innovative technique to test the effect of drugs on cancer cells by using patient tissue rather than lab mice.
Charles Drew, M.D. (1904-1950)
Drew developed groundbreaking ways to store blood plasma in blood banks. His work made the way for the modern blood transfusion.
Barbara Nichols, PHD
In 1970, Nichols was elected president of the Wisconsin Nursing Association (WNA), making her the first Black American to serve in the position in the organization’s 100-year history. And then in 1979, she was elected the president of the American Nursing Association (ANA), making her the first Black American to hold the national leadership position as well.
Black Americans’ impact on overall healthcare and innovation is something to be emphasized during a month to uplift their accomplishments. But it’s important to also acknowledge the sacrifices and gruesome medical mistreatment of Black Americans. From the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study that withheld treatment from hundreds of Black men for decades to let doctors track the course of the disease, the gruesome experiments on enslaved people, as well as forced sterilizations of Black women, much of our medical advancements are because of the trauma and horror that Black Americans were put through in the name of medicine.
As we go through February, be sure to recognize and acknowledge Black Americans’ sacrifices and achievements.