Daniel Hale Williams was an African American general surgeon and was also the founder of Provident Hospital, the first medical institution to have an integrated staff in the United States. He was the fifth child of Daniel Hale Willaims Jr. and Sarah Price Williams and was born and raised in the city of Hollidaysburg, Pennslyvania. While his path to medicine was atypical his impact is interminable. After being forced into the shoe making and barbery trades due to his father’s untimely death, Williams eventually moved to Wisconsin, where he became particularly fascinated by a local physician and his discipline. He began working as an apprentice to Dr. Henry W. Palmer for two years and in 1880 entered the Chicago Medical College, now known as Northwestern University Medical School. After graduation from Northwestern in 1883, he opened his own medical office in Chicago, Illinois, though he truly desired to work in Washington, D.C where he would have been closer to his mother. Williams set up his own practice in Chicago’s Southside and taught anatomy at his alma mater, also becoming the first African-American physician to work for the city’s street railway system. In 1894, Williams moved to Washington, D.C., where he was appointed the chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital, which provided care for formerly enslaved African Americans. Williams left Freedmen’s Hospital in 1898. He married Alice Johnson, and the newlyweds moved to Chicago, where Williams returned to his work at Provident. Soon after the turn of the century, he worked at Cook County Hospital and later at St. Luke’s, a large medical institution with ample resources. Daniel Hale Williams experienced a debilitating stroke in 1926 and died five years later, on August 4, 1931, in Idlewild, Michigan. Today, Williams’s work as a pioneering physician and advocate for an African-American presence in medicine continues to be honored by educational institutions worldwide.
- First African American elected into the American College of Surgeons
- Performed first successful heart surgery in the United States
- Founder of Provident Hospital, the first medical insitution to have an integrated staff
- Founder and first Vice- President of the National Medical Association