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"Who lives who dies who tells their story?”- Black Pioneers In Medicine

Let's delve into the compelling narrative of Black pioneers in medicine. Despite the Supreme Court's stance on race in college admissions and the denial by influential figures of systemic racism, discrimination, and bias disadvantaging Black individuals, we must not lose sight of the fact that the transatlantic slave trade persisted in the U.S. until 1865, Black Codes endured until the 1960s, and segregation persisted until 1965 – all of these official milestones took time to implement nationwide. Integration of medical schools didn't occur until 1847 by Dr. James Peck at Rush University (Black History). Nonetheless, we have made strides in restoring and acknowledging what was lost and erased, fostering new beginnings and a renewed sense of belonging and success for Black individuals of the African Diaspora.

In the spirit of recognizing Black History Month (which is every month), let's spotlight two outstanding figures in medicine: Daniel Hale Williams and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett.


Daniel Hale Williams, Black History Month, one of the black pioneers in Medicine

Born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, on January 18, 1856, Daniel Hale Williams faced adversity early in life when his father succumbed to tuberculosis when he was just ten years old (Who Was,2024). Dissatisfied with work as a shoemaker and in his family's barbering business, Dr. Williams embarked on an apprenticeship with the accomplished surgeon Dr. Henry Palmer. Graduating from Chicago Medical College in 1833, he became one of only four Black practicing physicians in Chicago (Who Was, 2024). Dr. Williams, a skilled and thoughtful surgeon, founded Provident Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, the nation's first hospital training Black nurses and interns. Notably, he co- founded the National Medical Association and achieved the distinction of being the first surgeon to perform open-heart surgery on a human (Who Was, 2024). Dr. Williams is celebrated for his contributions to advancing African Americans in medicine.


Dr Kizzmekia Corbett, Black pioneers in Medicine

Transitioning to more recent times, and in observance of Women's History Month, let's explore the journey of Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an assistant professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard University. Born in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina, and raised in Hillsborough, North Carolina, within a large family of biological and adopted siblings, Dr. Corbett discovered her passion for science during high school. Engaging in an organic chemistry lab through the American Chemical Society-funded program SEED, she also interned at Stony Brook University, delving into pseudotuberculosis pathogenesis. Pursuing her studies at the University of North Carolina, she graduated with a dual degree in Biological Sciences and Sociology (Kizzmekia S., 2024).

Following her academic journey, Dr. Corbett served as a biological sciences trainer at the NIH, contributing to projects on respiratory syncytial virus pathogenesis and innovative vaccine platform advancement. Her work included studying the human immune response to the dengue virus before becoming a research fellow with the NIH (Kizzmekia S., 2024).

In 2021, she was appointed to Boston's COVID-19 advisory committee by the mayor. When the pandemic struck, Dr. Corbett promptly initiated vaccine development efforts. As part of the NIH team that determined the CryoEM structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, she collaborated with Moderna to test the vaccine on animals. Her tears of joy flowed when the mRNA-1273 Moderna vaccine passed human efficacy trials (Kizzmekia S., 2024)


“Kizzmekia S Corbett-Helaire.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 14 Mar. 2024,

“Libguides: Black History Month: A Medical Perspective: Chronology of Achievements.”

Chronology of Achievements - Black History Month: A Medical Perspective - LibGuides at Duke University Medical Center, Duke University , 2022, Smith%20graduates%20from,to%20earn%20a%20medical%20degree.&text=1847- ,Dr.,College%2C%20Chicago%2C%20IL).

“Who Was Dr. Daniel Hale Williams? - Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center: Jackson State University.” Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center | Jackson State University, Jackson State University, 11 Oct. 2023, williams/#:~:text=Daniel%20Hale%20Williams%20(1858%2D1931,based%20training%20 programs%20for%20nursing.


Imani Bah, I Am Abel Mentee 2022, MD candidate 2028

Imani Bah, I Am Abel Mentee, 2022

MD Candidate, 2028


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