African Americans have always practiced medicine, whether as physicians, healers, midwives, or “root doctors.” The journey of the African American physician from pre-Civil War to modern day America has been a challenging one. Early black pioneer physicians not only became skilled practitioners: They became trailblazers and educators paving the way for future physicians, surgeons, and nurses, and opening doors to better health care for the African American community.
This exhibition celebrates the achievements of African American pioneers in medicine by highlighting past and contemporary surgeons and educators who exemplify excellence in their fields and foster future excellence through the education and mentoring of young African Americans pursuing medical careers.
Claude H. Organ, Jr.
Claude H. Organ, Jr., M.D., (1926-2005) believed that experienced physicians and surgeons have a responsibility to pass the torch and share their knowledge with younger physicians and surgeons. He viewed his mentorship of younger generations as his greatest professional achievement.
“It’s attitude, not aptitude that determines altitude.”Read Biography
Rosalyn P. Scott
Rosalyn P. Scott, M.D., M.S.H.A., (1950- ) is dedicated to finding ways to encourage and inspire young African American physicians and surgeons, especially women. She encourages them to aspire to levels they never thought possible, despite the gender and racial obstacles they face.
“In any kind of goal that you set for your life…what’s important is determination.”Read Biography
LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr.
LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., M.D., (1930 -2019) believed the role of the medical school teacher is to “instruct, inspire, stimulate, develop talent, raise aspirations, and stretch the imagination.” He encouraged his students to “strive for excellence” undeterred by the obstacles racism presents.
“With hard work and an education, combined with honesty and integrity, there are no boundaries to what you can achieve.”Read Biography
Alexa I. Canady
Alexa I. Canady, M.D., (1950–) believes that “Surgery is aservice business. You provide a service as unobtrusively as possible. But you must be human. To provide good quality care, it is so important that patients are able to talk to you and not regard you as some deity above them.” Her “patient-care first” approach, her ability to set her patients at ease, and her down-to-earth attitude have all contributed to her success as a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“If you want to be something, you have to perceive that something is possible.”Read Biography
African American surgeons still face many challenges, but their path has been made easier by the pioneering surgeons that came before them. Among academic surgeons today, African Americans hold some of the most prestigious academic surgical positions in the United States, including Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., dean of the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine and Danny O. Jacobs, M.D., president of Oregon Health & Science University. The tradition of excellence through performance and education continues.
This online exhibition is a refresh of a 2006 project developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. View the archived website from the original project.
Curated by: Margaret A. Hutto and Jill L. Newmark.
Exhibition Designer: HealyKohler Design
Web Designer: Astriata, LLC