Today is the start of Black History Month! Knowing the past opens the door to the future, so we are excited to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans and recognize their central role in U.S. history.
Since we specialize in medical interiors, Created by Carter will honor the lives of five Black American medical innovators each week. Be sure to check back weekly to learn about the groundbreaking work Black Americans have contributed to the medial profession.
Let's get started!
Alexander Thomas Augusta, MD - Dr. Augusta was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1825 to free parents. He moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and earned his medical degree at the Trinity Medical College in 1856. On April 14, 1863, Augusta was commissioned as a major in the Union Army and appointed head surgeon in the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry, which made him the highest ranking Black officer of the Union Army during the Civil War and the first Black physician appointed director of a United States hospital.
Despite his accomplishments, his pay was only $7 a month, which was lower than that of white privates. He also experienced white violence when he was mobbed in Baltimore for publicly wearing his officer's uniform. After the military, he started his own practice in Washington, D.C. and became the first Black professor at the newly formed Medical College at Howard University. Despite being denied recognition as a physician by the American Medical Association, he continued his work until his death in 1890. He was the first Black officer to be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Thank you for your service, Dr. Augusta!
Patricia Bath, MD - Dr. Bath was born in 1942 in New York City's Harlem neighborhood to Rupert Bath, the first Black motorman for NY's subway system and Gladys Bath, a domestic worker who saved her salary for her children's education. She earned her high school diploma in only two years and graduated with honors from Howard University's medical school in 1968.
Through her research, Bath discovered that Black Americans were twice as likely to suffer from blindness and eight times more likely to develop glaucoma. In 1973, she became the first Black American to compete a residency in ophthalmology. In 1975, she became the first female faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute.
In 1981, Bath began harnessing laser technology which made it less painful and more precise to treat cataracts. She received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first Black American female physician to receive a patent for a medical invention. She also held the patents in Japan, Canada and Europe. With her Laserphaco Probe, Bath was able to help restore the sight of individuals who had been blind for more than 30 years.
Thank you for your innovation, Dr. Bath!
Regina Marcia Benjamin, MD, MBA - Dr. Benjamin was born in 1956 in Mobile, Alabama. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and her mother was forced to sale their family-owned land out of financial necessity. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Xavier University in 1978 and her medical degree from the University of Alabama, Birmingham in 1984. To help with her educational expenses, she joined the National Health Service Corps.
In 1990, Dr. Benjamin opened her own practice in Bayou La Batre, Alabama and was the only physician serving the small, impoverished community. When her practice was destroyed two separate times by both Hurricanes Georges in 1998 and Katrina in 2005, she rebuilt after each storm and continued serving her patients.
In 1995, Dr. Benjamin became the first woman and the first physician under the age of forty to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. In 1998, she was the sole American recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. In 2002, she became the first Black American female president of a state medical society when she was elected President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. On July 13, 2009, President Barak Obama announced Dr. Benjamin as the choice for Surgeon General of the United States and as Medical Director in the regular corps of the Public Health Service. She held the post of U.S. Surgeon General until her resignation in July 2013. Dr. Benjamin currently serves on the board of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc and is founder and CEO of BayouClinc/Gulf Sates Health Policy Center in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.
Thank you for your resilience, Dr. Benjamin!
Robert Fulton Boyd, MD - Dr. Boyd was born into slavery in 1855 in Giles County, Tennessee. In 1866, he was taken to Nashville to live with an internationally known surgeon. During his stay, he worked without wages for a real estate agent by day and attended Fisk University by night.
The medical department of Central Tennessee College recognized his efforts at Fisk and he entered the institution in 1880. Dr. Boyd graduated with honors in 1882, then he practiced medicine and taught as an adjunct professor in Mississippi. Afterwards, he graduated from Nashville's Meharry Medical College with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1887. He became the first Black dentist and doctor to open a practice in Nashville.
When Central Tennessee could not afford to open a teaching hospital, a facility was built near the school where students had privileges. Meharry's students were barred due to their race. As a result, Dr. Boyd opened Mercy Hospital for students and anyone in need. In 1900, Boyd and a group of prominent Black physicians formed a national fraternity called the Society of Colored Physicians and Surgeons, which later became the National Medical Association, to serve the Black community. Boyd was elected president making him the first Black president of the first professional organization for Black physicians.
Thank you for your grit, Dr. Boyd!
Alexa Irene Canady, MD, FAANS (L) - Dr. Canady was born in 1950 in Lansing, Michigan to a dentist father and educator mother. She graduated with a degree in zoology from the University of Michigan in 1971, but soon realized that she had fallen in love with medicine. She went on to graduate from the College of Medicine at the University of Michigan and decided to pursue neuroscience.
Dr. Canady's advisers discouraged her from pursuing neurosurgery and she had a hard time obtaining an internship. She never gave up, and was eventually accepted as a surgical intern at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1975 making her the first woman and Black American to be enrolled in the program.
She completed her residency in neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota in 1981. In 1984, Dr. Canady made history as the first Black woman certified as a diplomat of the American Board of Neurological Surgery. In 1987, at the age of 36, Dr. Canady became the Chief of Neurosurgery at Children's Hospital of Michigan where she cared for young patients facing life-threatening illnesses, head trauma, hydrocephaly, brain tumors and spine abnormalities. She officially retired in 2012, but continues to be an advocate for encouraging young women to pursue careers in medicine and neurosurgery.
Thank you for your courage, Dr. Canady!