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14 Doctors Who Deserve A Round Of Applause

Without them, we wouldn't have open heart surgery, blood banks, syphilis testing, automatic defibrillators, laser cataract removal, and the list keeps going...

1. Dr. Ben Carson: the only neurosurgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head, and the first to perform intrauterine neurosurgery on a fetus in the womb.

Mike Theiler / AFP / Via

Long before he got involved with politics and became President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of housing and urban development, Carson was a leading pediatric neurosurgeon with hundreds of honorary degrees and awards.

Carson performed the first intrauterine surgical procedure on the brain of a fetal twin in 1986, pioneering techniques used to operate on fetuses in the womb. In 1987, he led the team of surgeons who completed the first successful separation of twins conjoined at the cranium. Carson was also the youngest person to be chief of pediatric surgery in the US, at the tender age of 33.

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US.

2. Dr. Mae Jemison: the physician and engineer who also became the first black female astronaut in NASA history.

NASA / Wikicommons / Via

Jemison got a full ride to Stanford when she was just 16, and after getting a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, went on to get her medical degree at Cornell University. As a doctor, Jemison volunteered around the world and served as a medical officer in the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

After practicing medicine in California, Jemison applied to NASA's astronaut program, and in 1992 she became the first black woman to go to space, traveling on the shuttle Endeavor at only 36 years old.

3. Dr. Charles Drew: the surgeon who pioneered research on blood plasma for transfusions and helped organize the first large-scale blood bank in the US.

Associated Photographic Services / Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. / Via

Drew is commonly known as the "father of the blood bank" for his role in organizing the first major blood bank in the US during the start of World War II. Drew was also a professor of surgery at Howard University in the 1940s. At Howard, he trained an entire generation of black surgeons, advocated for better access to medical education for black students, and fought against segregation among physicians.

4. Dr. Marilyn Hughes Gaston: the first female and first black physician to direct a public health service bureau.

Maryland Archives / Press Office / Via

Gaston received her medical degree from University of Cincinnati, and afterwards went to Philadelphia General Hospital to research sickle cell disease (SCD), a potentially fatal inherited blood disorder. She published a groundbreaking study on SCD in 1986 that proved that babies need to be screened for the disease at birth and given preventive antibiotics to avoid sepsis. The study led to a nationwide, federally funded screening program for newborns.

In 1990, Gaston became director of the Bureau of Primary Health Care in the US Health Resources and Services Administration, where she dedicated her work to improving medical care for poor and minority populations.

5. Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller: the first black psychiatrist in the US and a major contributor to the study of Alzheimer's disease.

Wikicommons / Via

Fuller was actually born in Liberia, where his grandparents had emigrated as freed slaves from Virginia, but later returned to the US to receive his medical degree from Boston University. As a resident, Fuller went to Germany and worked under Alois Alzheimer at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital in Munich. Fuller returned to the US and published the first clinical review of Alzheimer's disease, translating his mentor's work from German to English.

Fuller continued to do groundbreaking research on neurodegenerative disorders that helped support the theory that dementia is caused by a disease, not simply old age. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes Fuller as the first black psychiatrist, and he is still championed today for his groundbreaking research and contributions to the field of neuropathology.

6. Dr. Helene D. Gayle: the first female and first black director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, and a renowned HIV/AIDs researcher.

World Economic Forum / Flickr: worldeconomicforum / Via

Gayle received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's in public health from Johns Hopkins University, then became an epidemic intelligence officer at the CDC. There, Gayle completed a residency, and worked as a medical epidemiologist in Africa, an AIDS coordinator, and a consultant to the World Health Organization and the United Nations.

After her residency, Gayle devoted her career to the study and prevention of HIV/AIDs and became the director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, where she launched domestic and global programs to prevent disease and save lives. Gayle also helped launch global initiatives with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eliminate tuberculosis and syphilis.

7. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams: the surgeon who performed the first successful open heart surgery on a human, and the founder of the first black-owned hospital in the US.

WikiCommons / Via

Williams made history by performing the first successful open heart surgery on a human in 1893 — the patient, who suffered a stab wound to the chest, went on to live normally for 20 more years. Williams later founded the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which was the first black-owned and interracial hospital in the US.

He later became chief of surgery at the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, DC, which was the first federally-funded health care facility for black people at the time. Because black doctors were still denied membership in the American Medical Association, Williams founded the National Medical Association. Williams went on to become the first black doctor to gain membership to the American College of Surgeons.

8. Dr. Patricia Bath: renowned ophthalmologist, inventor, and the first black woman to receive a medical patent.

Bath began her influential medical career when she became the first black doctor to complete a residency in ophthalmology at New York University. After practicing in Harlem and observing higher rates of blindness in black people than white people, Bath introduced a new discipline of medicine — community ophthalmology — to deliver primary care in underserved and minority communities.

Bath then became the first female ophthalmologist at UCLA and invented a new device to remove cataracts from the eye, called the laserphaco probe, which made her the first black woman to receive a medical patent. Bath is also an advocate for preventing and curing blindness and founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, DC.

9. Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts: the surgeon and activist who fought for certification of black medical students and better medical care for the poor.

Charles DeWitt Watts Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University / Via

Watts started out as the first black surgeon certified to practice in North Carolina, and later established the Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, a clinic that provided primary health care for anyone, regardless of ability to pay — which was revolutionary for medicine at the time.

In addition to advocating for human rights and improved health care for the poor, Watts was a civil rights activist who fought against racial discrimination in the medical world. He is known for his devotion to advocating for improved education and certification of black medical students in the US.

10. Dr. Joycelyn Elders: the pediatrician and public health administrator who became the first black Surgeon General of the United States.

NIH / Via

Elders became the first board-certified pediatric endocrinologist in Arkansas, where she practiced for 20 years and researched juvenile diabetes. She became the head of the Arkansas Health Department, where she campaigned to increase family planning clinics and sexual education; this led Arkansas to mandate a K–12 sex ed and substance abuse prevention program in the conservative state.

President Bill Clinton appointed Elders as the US surgeon general in 1993, making her the first black doctor and the second woman to hold the position. As surgeon general, Elders was outspoken about her progressive policies, such as drug legalization to reduce crime and the distribution of contraceptives in schools. The conservative backlash led Elders to resign after 15 months, but she remains a major influence in public health and sexual education.

11. Dr. LaSalle Leffall: renowned oncology surgeon and the first black president of both the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society.

National Cancer Institute / Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center / Via

Leffall was one of the first black surgical oncology fellows at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and from there became the chairman of surgery at Howard University for 25 years.

Leffall has taught over 5,000 medical students, inspiring young people to break down barriers of discrimination and prejudice using education. He later became the first black president of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society, making major contributions in the fields of surgery and cancer research.

12. Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr: the first cardiac surgeon to implant an automatic defibrillator in a human, a device which has since saved millions of lives.

John Hopkins Medicine / Via

Watkins started his influential medical career at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he was the first black student and graduate. He was also the first black chief resident at Johns Hopkins University and later became an associate dean and professor of cardiac surgery.

In 1980, Watkins performed the world's first implantation of an automatic defibrillator in a human — a device millions of people still rely on to stay alive — and pioneered techniques for other open heart surgeries. In addition to his achievements as a cardiac surgeon, Watkins is also known for his work as a civil rights advocate and for his efforts to increase diversity at Johns Hopkins.

13. Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler: the first black woman to earn a medical degree, become a doctor in the US, and get published as a medical writer.

NIH / Via

After working as a nurse in Massachusetts, Crumpler went to New England Female Medical College, where she became the first black woman to earn a medical degree, and become a doctor in the US. Crumpler then published A Book of Medical Discourses, about her own career and family medicine, making her one of the first black medical writers. Crumpler then went to Richmond, where she worked with the Freedmen's Bureau to deliver health care to freed slaves who otherwise had no access to hospitals or clinics.

14. Dr. William Augustus Hinton: physician and bacteriologist who developed the Hinton Test to diagnose syphilis and became the first black professor at Harvard.

Harvard University Archives / Via

After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Hinton worked in a lab at Harvard researching bacteriology and microbiology. Hinton later became a professor at Harvard Medical School in 1918 — making him the first black professor in Harvard's history.

However, Hinton might be best known for his expertise and research on syphilis — he developed a new flocculation method called the Hinton Test to diagnose syphilis, which was endorsed by the US Public Health Service. Hinton returned to Harvard to teach bacteriology and immunology, where he remained an influential expert on sexually transmitted diseases.

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