This February, we celebrate the incredible Black pioneers who have paved the way in medicine. These individuals broke barriers, defied discrimination, and made lasting contributions to our health and well-being.
- Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, born Rebecca Davis, was an American physician, nurse and author. After studying at the New England Female Medical College, in 1864 she became the first African American woman to become a doctor of medicine in the United States.
- Dr. Charles Drew was both a surgeon and pioneer researcher. His work and understanding of blood plasma led to advances in blood storage and use for transfusions. This also saved the lives of many wounded soldiers in WWII. He developed blood banks as the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank and later in his career, he fought against racial discrimination in Red Cross blood donations.
- Mary Eliza Mahoney was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston after the 19th Amendment was ratified. She was also one of the first Black members of the American Nurses Association and today, the “Mary Mahoney Award” recognizes work in interracial relationships through the ANA.
- Dr. Daniel Hale Williams is one of the first physicians to perform a successful pericardial surgery. He founded the first black-owned and non-segregated hospital and also created two training programs for Black nurses. He was the first (and at the time, only) Black member of the American College of Surgeons. Among other accomplishments, he also co-founded the National Medical Association with Dr. Robert Boyd.
- Making history: Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett (pictured) has had a huge role in vaccine development for COVID-19 through her research on spike proteins and mRNA encoding. As the Scientific Lead of the Coronavirus Team at the National Institute of Health’s Vaccine Research Center, Dr. Corbett has said she wants to show more diverse representation in her field for young scientists and people of color. She has also worked to build trust in Black communities of the vaccine’s importance. By understanding the historical mistrust of medical research and vaccinations in these communities, she has been able to address concerns and increase education about efficacy and safety.
Ways to Honor Black History Month
Black History Month isn’t just about the past – it’s about celebrating a vibrant present and empowering future. This February, dive in and discover the richness of Black culture:
- Explore hidden gems: Visit a Black history museum, gallery, or bookstore. Be surprised by the artistry, talent, and resilience!
- Fuel your mind: Read a book by a Black author, watch a documentary on Black culture, or listen to a podcast by Black creators. Knowledge is power!
- Support Black-owned businesses: Shop, dine, and explore the diverse offerings of Black entrepreneurs. Your actions make a difference!
- Give back: Donate to organizations fighting for racial justice or supporting Black education and community initiatives. Each contribution counts!
Beyond February, let’s carry this spirit forward. By actively embracing Black history, we can build a more inclusive and equitable future for all.
Photo credit: Chiachi Chang, Staff Photographer, The National Institutes of Health (NIH)