Tag Archive for: Physician

Honoring Black History Month: Dr. Louis T. Wright

Among many of his accomplishments, Dr. Louis T. Wright was the first African American on the surgical staff of a non-segregated hospital in New York City.

Louis T. Wright

Louis T. Wright was born in 1891 in La Grange, Georgia. Wright was the son of a doctor and graduated from Clark Atlanta University in 1911. He went on to attend Harvard University and was very vocal about the unfair treatment he received from professors for not allowing him to deliver babies at a white teaching hospital. Despite graduating 4th in his class from Harvard University, he was unable to obtain an internship to work at any of Boston’s hospitals. Having graduated from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) for his undergraduate degree, Dr. Wright took his talents to an affiliate of another HBCU, Howard University, to complete his post-graduate internship at Freedman’s Hospital in the District of Columbia.

In 1916, he returned to Atlanta to practice medicine with his stepfather and decided to join the NAACP. He later served as a Lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps during World War I. Dr. Wright ran a field hospital in France and would go on to attain the purple heart, a medal that represents a service member that has greatly sacrificed themselves, or paid the ultimate price, while in the line of duty. After the war, he opened a small practice in Harlem, New York in 1919 and continued to work with the local NAACP chapter.

In 1929, the New York Police Department appointed him Police Surgeon. In 1935, the NAACP appointed him Chairman of the board, and in 1943, Harlem Hospital named him Chief of Surgery. None of these titles have ever been awarded to an African American before.

Dr. Wright suffered from chronic lung damage that he acquired in the war from 1939 to 1942 and was later diagnosed with tuberculosis. He passed away in 1952 of a heart attack. Louis T. Wright was one of the most respected physicians during his time and his research proved significant in areas such as antibiotic treatment, cancer, treating head injuries and treating bone fractures.

Honoring Black History Month: Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first African American female to earn a medical degree in the United States.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Born in 1831 in the state of Delaware, Dr. Crumpler worked for 8 years as a nurse before pursuing a degree in medicine. She would then go on to graduate in 1863 from the New England Female Medical College, which later became the Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Crumpler practiced in Boston and then moved to Richmond, Virginia after the Civil War ended in 1865. Dr. Crumpler was able to practice with other African American physicians and caring for freed slaves who would otherwise have no access to medical care. She eventually moved back to Massachusetts and retired in the affluent neighborhood of Hyde Park. Where in 1883, she published a book, Book of Medical Discourses based on her journal notes in practice over the years that provided medical advice for women and children.

Honoring Black History Month: Dr. James Durham

By Lisa Nails | Patient Navigator

James Durham is noted as the first African American Physician to practice medicine in the United States.

James Durham

Born in 1762 and working most of his life as a slave, he was able to gain knowledge in the field of medicine from his slave owners who were doctors. One of his slave owners, Dr. Robert Dow, who became sort of a mentor to him, trained Dr. Durham as a physician and allowed him to treat and perform procedures on patients of different races under his supervision.

In 1783, Dr. Durham paid for his freedom from his work as a physician and was able to open his own independent practice, despite not obtaining a medical degree. In 1789, his practice is reported to have grossed $3000 annually. From there, he built a reputation for successfully treating patients with yellow fever and his work in diphtheria. Dr. Durham’s success would eventually catch the attention of Dr. Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia, who would later join his practice.

In 1801, Pennsylvania laws restricted anyone from practicing medicine without a formal degree. Dr. Durham continued to practice in secret until 1802, when he mysteriously disappeared. Although his whereabouts remain unknown, it is speculated that he was murdered because of his success as an African American man during that time.