The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has released "Black Surgeons and Surgery in America," a book that explores the careers of physicians who saved lives and advanced the cause of health care for all. The publication’s 39 chapters examine their work in the context of seven sections of American history, including slavery, the Jim Crow era, affirmative action and modern health care.
"The book describes the background of health disparities in America and gives a historical perspective of the inequities we face today," says Don K. Nakayama, MD, MBA, FACS, clinical professor at the University of North Carolina, ACS treasurer and the book’s editor. "Traced from start to finish, it’s the story of America."
Many Black doctors who contributed significant achievements in health care that have been overlooked in American medical history are profiled. They include Dr. James McCune Smith, the first Black American to graduate from medical school and a man abolitionist Frederick Douglass said was the greatest Black influence in his life; Dr. Martin Robison Delany, who received medical training from an abolitionist before becoming the first proponent of Black nationalism; and Dr. Matilda Arabella Evans, the first Black woman licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina who, when barred from admitting patients to hospitals, opened an inpatient facility in her home.
"Beginning with slavery and continuing to the present day, there are indisputable racial inequities in health care," says ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS. "This book not only describes how Black surgeons faced the daunting challenges during each era of American history with heroism — sometimes at the cost of their lives — but it also serves as a call to action for surgeons today who seek to advance equity and justice in health care."Adam Taylor