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Commemorating Black History Month in Health Care

A Legacy of African-Americans’ Contributions to America’s Health Care Workforce

Each February, America honors the contributions African-Americans have made to society. In health care and medicine, African Americans developed important and notable adances. Learn more about some of them below.

Louis Sullivan


Louis Sullivan, MD, graduated from Boston University Medical School in 1958. Dr. Sullivan is an advocate for primary care and understanding the connections between different aspects of care delivery.

Louis Sullivan served as founding Dean of the Morehouse College School of Medicine. Later, Sullivan served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H. W. Bush while on leave from the college.

Dr. Sullivan returned to Morehouse School of Medicine and advocated for primary care practice by his graduates. Today, 75 percent of Morehouse graduates enter primary care residencies, quadruple the national average.

David Satcher


David Satcher graduated from Morehouse College in 1963 and earned an M.D. and Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in 1970. Dr. Satcher served as a researcher and faculty member at Morehouse School of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, and the King-Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles.

In 1998, Dr. Satcher was appointed as Surgeon General of the United States and served through 2002. In this role, the office of the Surgeon General released a report titled “The Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior,” which represented a major policy change towards sexual health in the United States.

Since leaving office, Dr. Satcher has been a leading advocate for addressing racial disparities in health care.

Mary Eliza Mahoney


Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in 1845 and worked as the first professionally trained African-American nurse in the United States, one of the first four graduates of America’s first nursing school.

After graduating, Mahoney worked as a private duty nurse throughout New England. During a period where nurses were treated as household staff, she insisted as working as a professional and completing household chores.

A strong supporter of women’s sufferage, Mary Mahoney was one of the original members of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, which is known today as the American Nurses Association.

Daniel Hale Williams


Daniel Hale Williams was born in 1856 and lived in Chicago, IL. After studying medicine at Chicago Medical College and working in private practice in Chicago’s integrated south side, Dr. Williams founded the country’s first inter-racial hospital.

Prodivent Hospital and Training School for Nurses opened in 1891, specifically as a place where both white and black doctors and nurses could learn and practice in one place, discarding prevailing racial segregation in medicine.

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