If you’ve been following this blog then you’ll know that I have been highlighting historical figures in Black History who have had an important impact on our lives. I knew nothing about Dr. Williams when I first came to America, and I had to do a little bit of digging around to find any information on him. I am so glad I did – his determination to found a racially integrated hospital was pioneering. He’s also a great role model for Kindergarten – I’ve not yet met one that doesn’t want to play doctors and hospitals, and the craft we make is a great way of recording Dr. Hale Williams’ life plus they get to keep a little medical bag!
Daniel Hale Williams was born on January 18, 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
Daniel followed in his father’s footsteps and became a barber. After a time he decided to carry on with his education.
He worked as an apprentice to a doctor and then studied at Chicago Medical College. Dr. Williams set up his own medical practice. He was known as ‘Dr. Dan’ to his patients.
Because he was black, Dr. Williams was not allowed to work in hospitals. Dr. Williams knew this needed to change. He founded the Provident Hospital with a nursing and intern program that was racially integrated. Dr. Williams worked there as a surgeon.
In 1893 Dr. Williams became only the second doctor (and the first African American doctor) to successfully complete an open heart surgery, operating on a man with stab wounds. The patient lived for many years after the procedure.
In 1894 Dr. Williams was appointed the chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C. which provided care for former slaves. Dr. Williams worked hard to improve the medical conditions, introducing ambulance services and adding multiracial staff.
Dr. Williams died in 1931.