Today, there’s a shortage of African American women doctors in this country. Experts are calling for more Black women to study medicine in the US.
We’ve found four Black women doctors who not only broke barriers and made history, but they absolutely kicked butt in their fields of study.
These 4 Black Women Doctors Absolutely Kicked Butt
Many African American women have made strides as US physicians. But these four Black women went above and beyond, becoming firsts in multiple areas of medicine. These are their stories:
1. Doctor Rebecca Lee Crumpler
Working as a nurse, Rebecca Lee Crumpler decided to attend New England Female Medical College. After graduating in 1864 during the middle of the Civil War, the Massachusetts resident became the very first African American women to earn a medical degree and become a physician in American.
Crumpler later became one of the first People of Color to publish content in the medical literature. Her publication was entitled ‘A Book of Medical Discourses.’ It detailed her own career as a Black woman doctor in the US.
Later, she moved on to Richmond, Virginia. There, she provided healthcare to freed slaves through the Freedmen’s Bureau. They had no access to local clinics and hospitals. So, she essentially helped save lives.
Today, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s book is still evidence of her medical legacy. She most definitely broke barriers during and after the Civil War.
2. Doctor Patricia Bath
In 1973, Patricia Bath became the very first doctor every to complete an ophthalmology residency at New York University. She began practicing medicine in Harlem, where she noticed People of Color were going blind at much higher rates than others.
So, Bath introduced the world to community ophthalmology. This medical discipline involves delivering primary healthcare to minority and underserved communities… the first of its kind.
She soon became UCLA’s very first woman ophthalmologist.
From there, Bath invented a device, the first of its kind, that removed cataracts from eyes. She named it Laserphaco Probe. Thanks to this innovative invention, she also became the first African American women to ever receive a medical patent.
Today, Dr. Patricia Bath is an advocate for blindness prevention and cure. She’s the founder of Washington DC’s American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. She broke numerous barriers for Doctors of Color and women physicians.
3. Doctor Joycelyn Elders
In 1978, Joycelyn Elders became the first board-certified pediatric endocrinologist in the State of Arkansas. This barrier-breaker was not the first woman or first person of color to achieve this. She was literally the FIRST PERSON in history to become certified as an endocrinologist in her state.
During her 20 years practicing medicine there, she conducted juvenile diabetes research. From there, she became the head of the Arkansas Health Department. There, she was influential in creating sexual education plans and family planning clinics. This helped push the state to implement substance abuse prevention and sex education programs in K-12 schools.
In 1993, Elders was appointed as the US surgeon general by President Bill Clinton. This made her the very first Black physician to ever hold this position. She also became the second woman in history appointed as America’s surgeon general.
Today, Dr. Joycelyn Evers continues to influence sex education and public health in the US. Her broken barriers have led to major changes in the way people discuss drug legalization and distributing contraceptives in schools.
4. Doctor Marilyn Gaston
Marilyn Hughes Gaston received her University of Cincinnati College of Medicine medical degree in 1960. She was the only African American person in her graduating class.
Soon she began practicing medicine at Philadelphia General Hospital. There, she researched sickle cell disease (SCD).
In America, this disease is more common among people of African descent, as well as those with backgrounds from Asia, India and the Middle East. This blood disorder is inherited and potentially fatal.
By 1986, Gaston had published what experts call a ‘groundbreaking study on SCD.’ It showed proof that babies should be screened for sickle cell disease when they’re first born. Her findings also show they need preventive antibiotics at birth to avoid sepsis.
This led the federal government to fund a nationwide screening program for newborn babies.
Gaston went on to work for the US Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care director in 1990. There, she dedicated her time to improving the healthcare provided to minority and poor populations.
In 1990, Gaston became director of the Bureau of Primary Health Care in the US Health Resources and Services Administration, where she dedicated her work to improving medical care for poor and minority populations.
During her career, Gaston was committed to improving the health of minority populations and people living in poverty. She remains an incredibly influential figure in American medicine.
Gaston went on to become the very first Black women ever to direct a public health service bureau… the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care.
Today, Dr. Marilyn Gaston is the proud recipient of numerous awards, including every Public Health Service award offered. such as the National Medical Association (NMA) Lifetime Achievement Award. Each year, Lincoln Heights and Cincinnati, Ohio give honor to her during the Marilyn Hughes Gaston Day celebration.
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