Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Daniel Hale Williams Completes First Open-Heart Surgery in Chicago in 1893.

Daniel Hale Williams was the son of a barber, founded the first negro-owned hospital in America, and performed the world's first successful heart surgery in 1893.
July 10, 1893
Williams was born in 1858 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the fifth of seven children. After his father died, his mother, Sara Price Williams, moved the family several times. Young Daniel started as a shoemaker but quickly knew he wanted more education. He completed secondary school in Wisconsin. At age 20, Williams became an apprentice to a former surgeon general for Wisconsin. Williams studied medicine at Chicago Medical College.

After his internship, he went into private practice in an integrated neighborhood on Chicago's south side. He soon began teaching anatomy at Chicago Medical College and served as surgeon to the City Railway Company. In 1889, the governor of Illinois appointed him to the state's board of health.

Determined that Chicago should have a hospital where negro and white doctors could study, and negro nurses could receive training, Williams rallied for a hospital open to all races. After months of hard work, he opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses on May 4, 1891, the country's first interracial hospital and nursing school.
1891-1893: 29th and Dearborn Streets, Chicago.
One hot summer night in 1893, a young Chicagoan named James Cornish was stabbed in the chest and rushed to Provident. When Cornish started to go into shock, Williams suspected a deeper wound near the heart. He asked six doctors (four white, two negro) to observe while he operated. In a cramped operating room with crude anesthesia, Williams inspected the wound between two ribs, exposing the breastbone. He cut the rib cartilage and created a small trapdoor to the heart.
1894-1908: 36th and South Dearborn Streets, Chicago.

Underneath, he found a damaged left internal mammary artery and sutured it. Then, inspecting the pericardium (the sac around the heart), he saw that the knife had left a gash near the right coronary artery. With the heart beating and transfusion impossible, Williams rinsed the wound with salt solution, held the edges of the palpitating wound with forceps, and sewed them together. Just 51 days after his apparently lethal wound, James Cornish walked out of the hospital. He lived for over 20 years after the surgery. The landmark operation was hailed in the press.

In 1894, Dr. Williams became chief surgeon of Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., the most prestigious medical post available to Negros then. There, he made improvements that reduced the hospital's mortality rate. In 1895, he helped organize the National Medical Association for negro professionals barred from the American Medical Association. Williams returned to Chicago and continued as a surgeon. In 1913, he became the first negro to be inducted into the American College of Surgeons.
1908-1933: 1315 West Garfield Boulevard, Chicago.

As a sign of the esteem of the negro medical community, until this day, a "code blue" at the Howard University Hospital emergency room is called a "Dr. Dan." In words that could later be said of Vivien Thomas, a colleague wrote, "His greatest pride was that directly or indirectly, he had a hand in the making of most of the outstanding Negro surgeons of the current generation."

Provident Hospital began offering graduate education for Black medical school graduates in 1917.

Dr. Williams died in 1931. The Daniel Hale Williams Medical Reading Club in Washington, D.C., commemorates his achievements.

1891-1893: 29th and Dearborn Streets. The hospital's first location was a three-story brick house with 12 beds.
1894-1908: 36th and South Dearborn Streets. Designed for hospital use with 50 beds.
Both of the above locations were in the Douglas Community and in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, which was the center of the city's negro community at the time.

1908-1933: 1315 West Garfield Boulevard.
1933-1987: 426 East 51st Street, Chicago.
1993-Pres: 500 East 51st Street, Chicago.

The Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine at DuSable (High School), 4934 South Wabash (Bronzeville neighborhood), Chicago, is a medical magnet school named in his honor when it opened in September 2005. Helping minority students get into medical school and become future members of the medical field is central to Daniel Hale Williams' mission and vision.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

1 comment:

  1. You have been finding many amazing people. I feel like I'm still in school! You make learning fun.


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