• Users Online: 104
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page
Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3-8

History of pioneer black surgeons in American medicine – Conclusion

1 Department of Surgery, Harlem Hospital Center, New York, NY, USA
2 Department of Surgery, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA
3 Surgical Health Collective, Atlanta, GA, USA
4 Dr. Joe Nwiloh Heart Center, St. Joseph's Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu, Anambra State, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication1-Oct-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jonathan Nwiloh
Dr. Joe Nwiloh Heart Center, St. Joseph's Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu, Anambra State
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/njct.njct_10_19

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Maynard AD, Lee AB, Walker M, Nwiloh J. History of pioneer black surgeons in American medicine – Conclusion. Niger J Cardiovasc Thorac Surg 2019;4:3-8

How to cite this URL:
Maynard AD, Lee AB, Walker M, Nwiloh J. History of pioneer black surgeons in American medicine – Conclusion. Niger J Cardiovasc Thorac Surg [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 16];4:3-8. Available from: http://www.nigjourcvtsurg.org/text.asp?2019/4/1/3/268463

  Aubre De Lambert Maynard M.D. 1901–1999 Top

Dr. Maynard was born in Guyana in 1901 and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1906. He completed undergraduate work at the City College of New York and Medical School at New York University. He was one of the first black residents to work at Harlem Hospital and eventually returned to this hospital to lead the surgical department for 15 years. He was the director of surgery when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was stabbed in New York (1958) and transported to Harlem Hospital for care. The trauma team (Dr. John W.V. Cordice, Dr. Emil Naclerio, Dr. Farrow Allen, and Dr. Maynard) performed the life-saving surgery. Harlem Hospital was a leader in exploring penetrating trauma to the heart and mediastinum.[1] This approach was in contrast to another less invasive option using pericardiocentesis and drainage only. Dr. Maynard's approach has stood the test of time. He authored the seminal book – Surgeons to the Poor – the Harlem Hospital Story published in 1978 and made the critical observation that gratis care was the obligation of all surgeons and physicians caring for the underserved.[2] Dr. Maynard was a pioneer cardiothoracic surgery having traveled to France to study with Dr. Charles Dubost (himself a pioneer in the treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms). This occurred at a time when cardiac surgical training for Black Surgeons in the United States was not available. Dr. Maynard has left a long legacy of clinical excellence and commitment to education. His life has been a major part of the inspiration for this third installment of the history of African-American Surgeons.

  References Top

  1. Lee AB. Pioneers of cardiac surgery who just missed being first. Niger J Cardiovasc Thorac Surg 2016;1:2-5.
  2. Maynard AL. Surgeons to the Poor: The Harlem Hospital Story. New York: Appelton-Century-Crofts; 1978.

  William Montague Cobb M.D. PH.D. 1904–1990 Top

Dr. W. Montague Cobb was born in Washington D.C., on October 12, 1904. He attended Dunbar High School and was accepted to Amherst College in Massachusetts. On completing his bachelor's degree, he returned to Washington, D.C. for medical school and received the M.D. degree from Howard University in 1929. He then completed his Ph.D. in anatomy and physical anthropology from Western Reserve University in 1932.[1] Dr. Cobb returned to Howard as an assistant professor of anatomy in the College of Medicine where he would remain for the next 41 years. He distinguished himself academically, ultimately publishing more than one thousand manuscripts. His interests were widespread: poetry, history, music, medicine, anthropology, civil rights, ethics, education, writing, and teaching were just some of his pursuits. At a time when racial notions of white supremacy were at a fever pitch, he challenged the allegation that Blacks were superior athletes because of differences in anatomy. He proved with anatomical measurements that there were no differences between black and white athletes but by inference training (i.e., - hard work) could explain the difference in performance. He also pioneered the notion that racism could adversely impact the health of a given individual, a family, or a community. He was committed to civil rights, pushing for integration in hospitals and for legislation that ultimately provided medical insurance for the poor, the elderly, and the underserved. He was the editor of the Journal of the National Medical Association for 28 years (1949–1977). One of his major contributions “The Black American in Medicine” was published as a supplement to the Journal of the National Medical Association in December 1981.[2] His leadership and vision have fueled this third installment of the contributions of African-American Surgeons. We owe him a great debt and we will continue to light the candle of remembrance.

  References Top

  1. Sampson CC. William Montague Cobb M.D., PhD 1904-1990. J Natl Med Assoc 1991;83:13-4.
  2. Cobb WM. The black American in medicine. J Natl Med Assoc 1981;73:1185-244.

  Gallery of Black Surgeons Top

  New york Top

Louis Tompkins wright 1891–1952

Dr. Wright was born in LaGrange, Georgia on July 23, 1891. His Father Dr. Ceah K. Wright a physician and 1881 graduate of Meharry Medical College died in his early childhood. His mother later married another physician, Dr. William Fletcher Penn an 1898 graduate of Yale University Medical School with whom he developed a bond of lasting affection. Dr. Wright received his basic education in the segregated elementary and secondary schools and at Clark University, a Negro college in Atlanta. His childhood and adolescence were filled with experiences of unprovoked assaults on Negroes, the brutality of the chain gang and ghastly relics of lynching. Louis graduated from Clark University in 1911, the valedictorian of his class. He then applied to the Harvard Medical School where after initial hesitation because of his background, he was subsequently admitted after he did exceptionally well in an impromptu examination to determine his admissibility. He encountered minimum racism at Harvard, except one incident in Obstetrics, where the professor informed him that he could not take his obstetrics assignment at the Boston Lying-In Hospital with the rest of the class and that special arrangements would be made for him to do his work under a Negro Obstetrician. Seeing that the hindrance was racial, Louis refused to accept this, fought the matter through with a surprising measure of support from his white classmates, and the ruling was overturned, and the discriminatory practice discontinued thereafter. By his obdurate stand, he opened a door for Negroes, the first of the many precedents he established in his lifetime. He graduated cum laude, the fourth in his class of 1915. Faced with the racial barriers of that era he failed to secure Internship in any of the Boston Hospitals and finally settled for one at Freedmen's Hospital, Washington, D.C. After a brief practice in Atlanta, he joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps at the outbreak of the first World War and was commissioned a First Lieutenant. He was decorated with Purple Heart and discharged a Captain, and subsequently joined the Army Reserves ultimately attaining the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Medical Corps.

Dr. Wright and Harlem Hospital

Dr. Wright opened his medical practice in New York City in April 1919 and subsequently applied for Hospital affiliation at Harlem Hospital which until then had maintained a lily - white staff. His War record and impressive credentials persuaded the superintendent to appoint him to the lowest grade on the staff, that of clinical assistant visiting surgeon in the outpatient department. Informed of this miniscule intrusion, the Medical Board erupted and in anger forced the transfer of the superintendent to another hospital, although made no attempt to displace Dr. Wright. Due to the outcry in the black community about the treatment accorded Negro patients at Harlem Hospital, Mayor Hylan finally capitulated to the pressure in 1924. He appointed a committee chaired by Commissioner David Hirshfield to undertake a survey of Harlem Hospital and make recommendations for solutions. They recommended the appointment of qualified black doctors throughout the staff structure in all categories, the outpatient department, the inside attending staff, and the house staff. This was a bitter pill for the entrenched white staff and a few whites of senior rank who found the interracial association unacceptable resigned. This integration represented the first significant penetration for the Negro doctor and a magnificent victory for the community. Blacks doctors including Dr. Wright were elevated from the clinics to the inside attending staff in medicine and surgery. Dr. Wright by his scholarship, outstanding ability, and overall competence brought honor to his race in becoming the first black police surgeon in New York State and insofar as was ascertained in the Country. It heralded the emergence of the black doctor from obscurity in New York with a successful challenge of the previously impregnable medical establishment. Dr. Wright was subsequently promoted associate attending surgeon in 1929. A committee appointed by the Commissioner Dr. Schroeder to proffer solutions on the deteriorating situation at Harlem Hospital in 1929, proposed a radical solution by a reconstruction of the Harlem Hospital staff with men consenting to a policy of racial integration. This was stated flatly as a sine qua non for the successful function of a municipal institution situated in the heart of the black community. Based on this recommendation in 1930, the medical board was abolished, and a new board appointed, with Negro appointees throughout all divisions and at all levels according to their qualifications, ending a decade of turbulence. It was a major triumph for Dr. Wright who had been the motive force behind the scenes and who now saw to fruition as established policy the racial integration that he espoused as essential to the progress of the black doctor. In the reorganization, Dr. Wright was elevated to a full attending surgeon and designated secretary of the medical board. From that time until his death, he remained indisputably the controlling force of the Institution regardless of who wore the official robes of authority. One of the pressing problems of this period was that of private hospitalization for the black doctor. None except Dr. Peter Murray had as yet been granted membership on the inside staff of a voluntary hospital or a first-class proprietary hospital with the privilege of hospitalization for his private patients. The new Negroes engaged in the practice of surgery had to utilize two poorly equipped and poorly supervised sanitaria established by Negro doctors or the one or two small white propriety hospitals of the same grade that condescendingly granted courtesy but segregated the colored patients or required that they be placed in private rooms at greatly increased cost to the patient. A proposal by the Julius Rosenwald Fund to erect a first-class hospital in New York City that would be available to Negro physicians and would be under colored administration was opposed by the Manhattan Central Medical Society headed by Dr. Wright. Deeming this, a backward step in the battle for full professional recognition and integration in New York where the potential for success seemed the best in the Country. Their opposition was defined by their distributed pamphlet titled “Equal Opportunity – No more – No Less” which ultimately resulted in the withdrawal of the Rosenwald proposal. A similar movement in 1932 initiated by the American Legion with support of the National Medical Association to establish a Veterans Administrative Hospital exclusively for blacks in the North was opposed by the Manhattan Medical Society under the leadership of Dr. Wright. Again a publication of the society “Identical Care and Treatment by the Federal Government” written by Dr. Wright was instrumental in the defeat of the Jim Crow venture.

In addition to his nonprofessional activities in the decade from 1930 to 1940, Dr. Wright never for a moment forsook the clinical World of Surgery and found time for extensive scientific investigation in several areas. After a hiatus starting in 1939 for about 3 years undergoing treatment for Tuberculosis, Dr. Wright on his return was elected unanimously as director of surgery from 1943 until his death in 1952, and from 1948 to 1952 also served as president of the medical board. At the time of his death, Dr. Wright had published 89 papers in leading scientific journals. With his passion for justice, his incisive mind and forceful rhetoric, it was inevitable that Louis Wright would move on an ever-widening stage from his base in medicine and local politics. Always a dynamic member of the N.A.A.C.P., in 1935, he became the chairman of its National Board of Directors and served in that capacity until his death on October 8, 1952, from a heart attack. He was survived by his wife Corinne and two daughters both physicians and three grandchildren.

In concluding the biographical sketch of Louis Tompkins Wright, one cannot ignore the fact that he was a controversial figure with followers who were idolatrous and detractors who just as vehemently reviled him. Of a certainty, he was neither god nor devil, but an amazing human being with the strengths and frailties to which all are heir. In the final analysis, Dr. Wright undeniably by his records made a monumental contribution to the black experience in America.[1],[2]

Peter Marshall Murray – 1888–1969

Dr. Peter Marshall Murray was born in Houma, Louisiana on June 9, 1888, to a working couple Mr. and Mrs. John L. Murray who made every sacrifice to assure Peter an education. He graduated from New Orleans University, a Negro school with a B.A. degree in 1910. Due to the urging of his mother a nurse, he decided on a career in Medicine and was accepted at Howard University Medical School where he graduated near the top of his class in 1914. On completion of his internship at Freedmen's Hospital, he stayed back to setup a successful practice in Washington. In 1917–18, he also served as a medical inspector in the public schools in Washington. Soon he was promoted assistant clinical professor of surgery in the medical school and assistant surgeon-in-chief at Freedmen's. However due to the segregation in Washington a southern city and following the Washington race riots of 1919 after the return of the Negro soldiers from World War, Dr. Murray decided to turn Northward to New York and Harlem. Dr. Murray took up residence and practice in Harlem at the very peak of the Marcus Garvey movement in 1921, when the pageantry of its ceremonials and parades achieved an incredible news exposure and brought Harlem its first taste of national and World celebrity. Escaping the segregated confines of Washington, the Murrays found reassurance in the greater social freedom of New York and its educational and cultural opportunities. Harlem Hospital had been opened to black doctors with Dr. Louis T. Wright in the vanguard. In 1928, Dr. Murray became an adjunct in surgery at Harlem Hospital and later rose to the rank of full attending surgeon in gynecology, and in 1948, director of gynecology and later president of the medical board.

He was certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1931, and subsequently, a fellow of both American College of Surgeons and International College of Surgeons. He received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from New Orleans University, Louisiana in 1935, from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1944, and Central State College, Ohio in 1962. Dr. Murray was elected president of the National Medical Association 1932–1933. He was appointed to the Board of Hospitals of the City of New York and was vice president of the Hospital Council of Greater New York from 1954 to 1961. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York in 1955 until his retirement. In 1949, he was elected a representative of the New York State Medical Society to the House of Delegates of the A.M.A., the first black to attain that honor in this national assembly. Dr. Murray in the later years of a long career became the acknowledged dean of the Negro medical profession in the United States and passed away peacefully on December 21, 1969. With his death, an era ended one in which three extraordinary men of diverse lifestyles, as well as personalities each in his own way, made contributions of incalculable value to the advancement of the black physician. By their collective efforts, they rescued him from anonymity and launched him into the very center of American medicine. All three were surgeons of rare distinction, Peter Marshall Murray, Charles Richard Drew, and Louis Tompkins Wright. In their totality of effort, these three illustrious figures enhanced the image of the Negro physician and brought him to national identity, respect, and a state of equality with his white colleagues. Moreover with these came hitherto unimaginable opportunities in the white medical establishment. It is unlikely that the black physician, who today finds fewer obstacles in his path, realizes the extent of his indebtedness to these three pioneers.[3],[4]

U. Conrad Vincent – 1893–1938

Dr. Vincent was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on January 5, 1893, the son of Dr. Andrew Vincent, a professor at Shaw University. He graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1918 and was the first black appointed to the house staff of Bellevue Hospital in New York. He served his internship and residency in urology under the renowned Dr. Edward L. Keyes, professor of urology at the Cornell University Medical School and director of the division of urology at Bellevue. As a resident doctor, he originated the operation for varicocele which bears his name, and in 1919 reported the series at Bellevue before the New York Academy of Medicine and subsequently before the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons and the American Urological Association. At Harlem Hospital, Dr. Vincent had started as an adjunct attending surgeon but rose rapidly to head the department of urology. From the beginning of his practice in the Harlem community, Dr. Vincent monopolized the field of urology with a success that was phenomenal. He, however, was disclosed as a man of overweening vanity, who could tolerate neither rivalry nor disagreement. In time his hubris knew no bounds, keeping him in constant conflict with his peers and neutralizing his effectiveness as a staff member of Harlem Hospital where with a less contentious psyche he could have made the tremendous scientific contribution that was expected of him. His failure to do so was a tragedy for him and his people. His intense and too often abrasive personality fired with the zeal of the private entrepreneur founded the Vincent Sanitarium, a fifty-bed modern institution on Harlem's Seventh Avenue in the late 1920s. Lacking the full cooperation of the black medical community, whose support was indispensable for a venture of this magnitude, the project collapsed within 2 years because of insolvency. It was not only a financial calamity for Dr. Vincent but also a mortal blow to pride that could not accept failure. Its adverse effect altered the course of his career, resulting in termination of his activity at Harlem Hospital devoting himself exclusively to private practice. In a depressed state, his health began to fail and the hopes that once were bright gradually dimmed into extinction. In a short life span of 46 years, highlighted by a tempestuous career, Dr. U. Conrad Vincent left his mark indelibly as the first black urological surgeon of consequence in New York City and unquestionably the first to receive national recognition in his specialty.

Godfrey Nurse – 1888–1968

Dr. Nurse was born in Georgetown, British Guiana in 1888, and received his elementary and secondary schooling in the British colonial schools and then moved to New York to complete his education. He graduated from the Long Island Medical College in 1914. In that bleak era when training opportunities for black physicians were practically nonexistent in New York, he was denied an internship. Accepting willingly such obstacles, he proceeded to open an office in Harlem for general medical practice with determination to ultimately secure training in surgery. He was then fortunate to make acquaintance with Dr. Walter Crump, the professor of surgery at Flower Hospital Medical College who became his mentor and surgical preceptor. He worked with Dr. Crump in the laboratory for experimental surgery at the medical school and later joined him as an assistant in surgery. With his talents, manual dexterity and diligence within a few years, he was performing major surgery on his own with the blessing of Dr. Crump. He soon opened the Godfrey Nurse Research laboratory, the first clinical laboratory by a Negro to be certified by the Health Department of New York. With other community leaders, Dr. Nurse was in the vanguard of the fight to open Harlem Hospital to black doctors. Greatly interested in legislative and social reform and politics, Dr. Nurse twice represented New York State in the Electoral College. Throughout his long career his benefactions to Negro institutions in various parts of the country were many and bountiful and his support of young blacks seeking education was generous. His crowning philanthropy in his later years was a gift of $100,000 to Harlem Hospital in 1957 when his fellow countryman from Guiana Dr. Aubre Maynard was the surgical director. With his Caribbean origins, Dr. Nurse had a life - long interest in the health problems of the region and his will included a bequest of $25,000 for the Medical School of the University of West Indies. Generous to the last he passed with dignity and the deep respect of his peers on December 22, 1968. His life-span of 80 years was synchronous with the emergence of the black doctor from almost total obscurity to full recognition in the profession with an ever-expanding participation in all areas of medical activity.

  Entry Into the Mainstream of American Medicine Top

The preceding biographical vignettes constitute the essential roster of the men who may be credited with establishing the black identity in American Surgery. Disadvantaged by race and resources and with few exceptions denied access to formal training within the white surgical orbit, these pioneers developed within the limitations of their own professional enclave, with a few surmounting the handicaps of this parochialism to become surgeons of imposing reputation. By initiative, pertinacity, and hard labor, they destroyed the myths and preconceptions that maligned Negroes and questioned their capacity to perform in the field of surgery. These precursors demonstrated convincingly that in the profession's elitist discipline, they had the same potential for achievement and contribution as their white counterparts. This was the legacy they bequeathed to succeeding generations, providing a formidable weapon for further assault on a system encrusted with racial prejudice.

For the black physician, World War II brought him new vistas and a future that could hardly have been forecast. The holocaust so revolting in its inhumanity and the source of universal sorrow and tragedy turned out to be in rather striking contrast, a genuine benefaction for black doctors in that it initiated their liberation from the confines of a professional ghetto. Moreover when the war moved into its decisive phase, the process accelerated. The workforce needs and other considerations finally forced the abandonment of many of the racial proscriptions of the past and facilitated at long last the unimpeded entry of blacks into the mainstream of American medicine. In retrospect black physicians in compliance with the precepts of the society had functioned up to World War II in a World apart. At most, any association with the white establishment was marginal. In the Southern States and in Washington, D.C. blacks had not yet been admitted to membership in the American Medical Association. In particular, their opportunities for surgical training remained lodged almost exclusively in private hospitals of their own and in a rare sprinkling of municipal institutions with the predominant complement of black patients or those having segregated Negro pavilion, a situation peculiar in the Southern States.

Concurrently, the years preceding the War registered an increasing interest in specialization, and the tide showed no signs of abating but moved to flood level. It was a revolutionary trend that called for prompt measures of organization and supervision as men of widely varying competence were practicing surgery with few if any legal restraints. The medical establishment came under pressure to assume responsibility in the public interest for its regulation and the establishment of strict ground rules for validating the competence of practitioners of the art. Decisive action came in the formation of the American Board of Surgery in 1937 and its creation of 4 years hospital residency in all its aspects, academic, research and clinical. Its graduate would be eligible for examination by their Board, and successful candidates would receive diploma certification as surgeon specialists. The plan was not a panacea since it could only guarantee trained surgeons with limited experience, but it was a sound effort and highly appropriate to the times. Almost immediately major institutions hastened to meet the requirements for approved residences which in consequence came to be much in demand. However for the black aspirant to surgery, the new order brought dismay since the accredited residencies available to him were too few in number to promise fulfillment of his ambition. Under the affliction of racial prejudice, this was the pre-war outlook in surgical training for blacks, bleak and discouraging with a sad resignation to the reality of deprivation. By War's end, the turnabout was epochal if not altogether complete. Access to full and equal opportunity was still not possible of attainment, but the path of integration was being traversed without compunction, and for the first time in the history of the Armed Forces, black doctors were widely dispersed into surgical units from field to base hospitals, enjoying a democratic participation that had been so long denied. Following discharge from the service, black men applied for and obtained house staff positions in nonsegregated Veterans Hospitals enabling them to acquire accredited training and future qualification for specialty board examinations. By the 1970s, three decades of opportunity had brought into being a sizable contingent of black surgeons all of them unlike their predecessors, recipients of the same training as their white colleagues and accredited identically as surgeon specialists. The list is long, but a few key figures from Howard and Meharry will suffice since these schools were at the forefront of the progress.

  The Howard Surgeons Top

Dr. Richard Francis Jones

Dr. Jones was a scholar, Alpha Omega Alpha, a certified urologist, skilled surgeon, and a superb teacher. In 1936, he was the sixth black physician in the United States to be certified as a specialist.

Dr. J. Robert Gladden

Dr. Gladden was the first black chief of the division of orthopedic surgery in 1950, the first black certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and the first to be elected to the Academy of Orthopedic Surgery.

Dr. Clarence Sumner Greene

Dr. Greene was Dr. Drew's first resident in general surgery 1941–1942 and later underwent residency in neurological surgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University under the World famous Dr. Wilder Penfield, an arrangement negotiated by Dr. Drew. Dr. Greene was certified Diplomate of the American Board of Neurology, the first black specialist in this field. He assumed the reins as professor of surgery and chairman of the department in 1955.

Dr. Burke Syphax

Dr. Syphax bridged the gap between the old and new at Howard, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in surgery at the University of Rochester 1941–1942. Following the death of Dr. Drew, he became in 1952 chief of the division of general surgery and in 1958 assumed the office of chairman of the Department of surgery.

Dr. Mitchell W. Spellman

Dr. Spellman, one of Dr. Drew's illustrious trainees, graduated medical school from Howard University in 1944 and underwent his internship and surgical residency at Howard until 1951. He was then awarded a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School from which he received a Ph.D. in surgery in 1955. From 1954 to 1959, he was a Markle Foundation Scholar, the recipient of one of America's most esteemed scholarship. On returning to Howard University faculty, he traversed the successive ranks to a professorship in 1964. In 1969, he transplanted his professional life from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles where he was appointed dean of the new Charles R. Drew Post Graduate Medical School of the University of California of Los Angeles. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, the first black to be so appointed.

Dr. Robert L. Simmons

Dr. Simmons was a graduate and surgical trainee of Howard University. After completing 3 years of advanced work and study in cardiovascular surgery at the University of Minnesota under Dr. C. Walton Lillehei, he became the chief of the division of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Howard. He performed the first successful cardiopulmonary bypass at Howard University on June 20, 1967, in a 54-year-old patient with pulmonary stenosis. This was a milestone for the medical school, and the hospital and the stellar achievement for the centennial of a school founded November 9, 1868, with eight students and five teachers.

  The Meharry Surgeons Top

Dr. Mathew Walker

Dr. Walker received his B.A. with honors from New Orleans University in 1929 and his M.D. with honors from Meharry Medical School in 1934. Internship and surgical residency were served at Meharry's George W. Hubbard Hospital from 1934 to 1938. Dr. Walker was granted a fellowship in surgery by the General Education Board for study at Howard, becoming the first man in the fellowship program initiated by Dr. Drew. Returning to Meharry, Dr. Walker's rise was meteoric with his designation in 1945 as the Professor and Chairman Department of Surgery. He evolved at Meharry a comprehensive surgical program where blacks are trained in surgery from 5 to 7 years after completion of their internships. As a surgeon, medical educator and research scientist, he was dedicated to the growth of Meharry and its ultimate transcendence to parity with the best.

Dr. Frank A. Perry

Dr. Perry a straight A student preceding medical school graduated with honors from Meharry in 1945. After completing the internship and surgical residency at the George W. Hubbard Hospital, he did a residency and fellowship in surgical oncology at the Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases in New York 1951–1955. He then was appointed a surgical consultant at the Sloan Kettering Institute, Division of Experimental Physiology 1955–1956 before returning to Meharry where he later became professor of surgery and assistant dean of the Medical School.

  Surgeons of the Deep South Top

Dr. Asa G. Yancey

Dr. Yancey received his B.S. degree from Morehouse College and his M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1941. After an internship at the Cleveland City Hospital, he served a surgical residency under Dr. Charles Drew at Freedmen's Hospital, then took another residency in general surgery at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Boston. Dr. Yancey was an instructor in surgery at Meharry from 1946 to 1948 and then served as chief of surgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital at Tuskegee from 1948 to 1958. Under his aegis more than twenty residents received accredited surgical training with eligibility for examination by the American Board of Surgery, the majority of them passing to become Diplomates of the Board. His record at Tuskegee was so outstanding that it caught the attention of the white establishment in Atlanta, that he was induced to return to his native city to accept much greater task in 1958. He accepted the Chairmanship of the Department of Surgery of the Hughes Spaulding Pavilion, a subdivision of the Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta's municipal hospital opened in 1952 for the purpose of serving the black population. He was charged with the responsibility of establishing a surgical residency structure to meet the requirements of the American Board of Surgery. This he achieved providing the only certified program of surgical training for black physicians in the State of Georgia. He was also appointed assistant professor of surgery at the Emory University College of Medicine, one of the oldest and most prestigious of the medical schools of the South.

  Conclusion Top

It is ironic that in spite of the racial turmoil and polarization of today's society, the professional climate of American Medicine has ameliorated considerably with more opportunities available to blacks than ever before. It would be unrealistic however to herald the elimination of racial barriers, prejudices, and inequities in a society which at its roots, is still institutionally racist, yet it is clear that the trend toward greater opportunity for the black doctor in all channels of activity is positive and so far as can be foreseen is destined to continue. There is an aphorism that “a race without knowledge of its history, is like a tree without roots.” This condensed version of a specialized aspect of black history, with its pantheon of those who have achieved under the yoke of slavery and adversity, is offered as a contribution toward the therapeusis of the social pathology of racism that infests America.


  • Ms. Gertrude Stone, Research Secretary and Editorial Assistant, Department of Surgery Harlem Hospital Center, New York, NY who helped with gathering of the data
  • W. Montague Cobb, MD., Past Editor Journal of the National Medical Association for his research on medical achievements of African Americans
  • Posthumous.

  References Top

  1. Cobb WM. The henry wisdom cave testimonial dinner given by the Harlem surgical society. J Natl Med Assoc 1951;43:145-53, 189-95.
  2. Cobb WM. Louis Tompkins wright, 1891-1952. J Natl Med Assoc 1953;45:130-48.
  3. Cobb WM. Peter Marshall Murray, MD 1888. J Natl Med Assoc 1967;59:71-81.
  4. Murray PM. Democracy advances in medicine. J Natl Med Assoc 1951;43:396-9.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Aubre De Lambert...
William Montague...
Gallery of Black...
New york
Entry Into the M...
The Howard Surgeons
The Meharry Surgeons
Surgeons of the ...

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded10    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal