Every year, Black History Month is celebrated to commemorate the history, accomplishments, and contributions of black people. It is a way of reflecting on the diverse histories of those from African and Caribbean descent, from developments in social and political history to those in healthcare and other sectors.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Black History Month was created in the US by a historian named Carter G. Woodson, who did so to challenge the viewpoint at the time that the black community had no history. He ended up discovering The Association for the Study of Negro Life & History in order for historians and others to preserve black history and its culture.
To celebrate Black History Month, here are a few people who have made significant contributions to the healthcare sector globally.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew
Charles Drew was an African-American surgeon who developed ways for the storage and use of blood plasma for transfusion. He also organized two of the largest blood banks in the United States during World War II.
During his legacy, he was appointed chief surgeon at Freedmen’s Hospital and was appointed as the first African-American examiner for the American Board of Surgery.
Nurse Mary Eliza Mahoney
Nurse Mary was the first licensed African-American nurse to work in the United States and advocated all her life for African-American nurses. Her training program was so rigorous, that she was one of four women from a class of 42 that graduated.
She paved the way for black people to pursue a career in nursing. Unfortunately, progress was still slow back then as only five African Americans graduated from the program twenty years after her own graduation.
Nurse Mahoney also co-founded the National Association of Coloured graduate Nurses in 1908 and called out nursing schools on discrimination present at the time.
Dr. Alexa Canady
In 1981, Dr. Canady was recognized as America’s first black female neurosurgeon. She pursued her residency at the University of Minnesota and continued further training in pediatric neurosurgery. She also served as chief of neurosurgery for over a decade at a children’s based hospital in Detroit, which under her guidance, was ranked among America’s best pediatric neurosurgery programs in the US News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals.
Mr. Kenneth Frazier
After receiving his undergraduate degree, and then his law degree from Harvard Law School, Mr. Frazier joined the pharmaceutical company Merck’s & Co. as general counsel, in 1992, in the public relations department.
Fast forward to 2011, he was appointed CEO and chairman, making him the first black man to lead a major pharmaceutical company.
Although we reminisce about these people, providing inspiration by making you aware of their legacy, it is also important to clarify what message this article should give. While we focus on the ‘celebrities’ of our time, we should not forget those labored as textile mill workers, the people who fought for our rights in the Civil Rights Movement, and those involved in the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.
This month, be bold and celebrate the community, regardless of your background. Also, be aware of how the community has informed and shaped aspects of identity within your community. After all, celebrating reminds us that black history is our history.
Featured image: MIT News
Ola is a medical student at The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).