Unity through Diversity

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DANIEL HALE WILLIAMS: Born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to Daniel Hale Williams II, a black barber and Sarah Price Williams, a Scots-Irish woman. At 10 his father died and Daniel was sent to live with family friends in Baltimore. After a time, he found he disliked his shoemaker’s apprentice job and decided to return to his family, who had moved to Illinois. He became a barber but ultimately decided he wanted to pursue his education. He worked with an accomplished surgeon, Dr. Henry Palmer, as an apprentice, at the same time, completing training at Chicago Medical College. Later, he established a practice in Chicago’s Southside and became the first African-American physician to work for the city’s street railway system. He continued to pursue a pioneering career in medicine. Discrimination held him back as African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. He sought the need for change and in May of 1891 opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. Because of recent findings on germ studies, influenced by Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister, he began to use sterilization methods and procedures to prevent germ transmission. He became chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital and became the first physician to successfully complete open-heart surgery on a patient. He worked diligently on revitalization, improving surgical procedures, increasing institutional specialization, and allowing public viewing of surgeries, launching ambulance services and adding a multiracial staff, continuing to provide opportunities for black physicians and nursing students. And in 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association, a professional organization for black medical practitioners, as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which didn’t allow African-American membership.