Black History in Healthcare

The way COVID-19 has specifically impacted Black Americans makes the inherent racism within healthcare very clear. Our current pandemic is further exposing the consequences of racial discrimination within the healthcare industry. However, racist stereotypes in medicine and healthcare is nothing new for Black people.

Highlighting the experiences Black people face in healthcare, is one way to combat the effects of racism. Another way is to address the lack of Black representation in the medical field.

Vertus Hardiman and the Children of Lyles Station

The Tuskegee Experiment is one of the most infamous stories in history about the use of African Americans as unwilling research subjects. It’s an experiment that the government has admitted to and acknowledged. It’s so famous that people think it was the worst, but there are other stories that are just as bad, if not worse.

The United States has a horrible history of medical experimentation on Black Americans. Doctors in the colonial American time would often try out new ideas on white patients when they hoped that the experiment would help the patient. They would use African slaves and Native Americans as subjects when the point of the research was to benefit white people.

When it came to the 20th century, though slavery was no longer the law, there was a widespread belief that people who could not pay for their medical care would “owe their bodies” to the medical community in return. As a result, patients from marginalized communities, like the poor and immigrants, did not receive the same ethical consideration that others did. Though that idea would have applied to poor patients of all races, segregation at the time meant that black patients were confined in many places to “black wards,” and they were disproportionately subjected to medical experimentation and mistreatment.

Blue Baby Syndrome and Cardiac Surgery

Black History Month is a time to pay tribute to African American women and men whose achievements helped shape U.S. history. It’s also a time to reflect on the challenging and heartbreaking road African Americans have endured for those achievements.

African American nurses, physicians and researchers have developed some of the most crucial innovations and made vital contributions to the advancement of healthcare.

In the spirit of honoring African American accomplishments, today we celebrate a pioneer, Vivien Thomas, who despite being limited by racial segregation and prejudice, was instrumental in advancing modern medicine. His achievements are a testament to the power of research, discovery, and persistence. He served as an inspiration and mentor to many.

Black Contributions to Healthcare

The contributions of African Americans to medicine date back to the American Revolutionary War. African American women and men have helped change the course of healthcare and race relations in the United States. They have invented first-of-their-kind medical devices and developed innovative surgical procedures.

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month and amplify Black contributions, it is important that we recognize Black pioneers who have made advances in healthcare and medicine and cleared the path for others.

Today we honor Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, MD. who became the first African American woman neurosurgeon in the United States in 1981, and helped develop medical breakthroughs and broke glass ceilings for women in the medical field.