DR. DANIEL HALE WILLIAMS
In 1893, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams per¬ formed one of the world’s medical miracles when he completed the first successful operation to repair a tom human heart. After years of dedication to the training and treatment of African-Americans, Williams was catapulted into a position where other leaders, including US President Grover Cleveland, were his admirers and his great¬ est allies in the foundation of African- American hospitals.
Bom in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Williams left school to apprentice with a shoemaker when he was only 12. He attended Haire’s Classical Academy in Wisconsin, and apprenticed with Dr. Henry Palmer before attending Chicago Medical College. Gaining a reputation as a quick study, Williams completed Chicago Medical in only three years.
He opened his own practice, taught at Chicago Medical College, and joined the surgical staff at South Side Dispensary. Proving himself a dedicated and tireless doctor, Williams was then appointed to the Illinois State Board of Health in 1889.
Williams was extremely sensitive to the needs of African-Americans, and the appalling lack of facilities available both for training and treatment. He founded Provident Hospital & Training Associa¬ tion in 1891 and opened it to the service of all citizens, and to the training of black stu¬ dents of medicine.
It was at Provident that Williams faced the dilemma that made him world famous. In an age where the damaged human heart was unbeatable, Williams received James Cornish, a man brought to the hospital with a lethal stab wound. Without antibi¬ otics or X rays, without any history of success, Williams managed to mend the rip in the dying man’s heart. It was an invaluable evolu¬ tionary leaps for modern medicine.
President Grover Cleve¬ land acknowledged Dr. Williams by honoring him with the position of chief surgeon at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington DC. Williams used the influence of his new position to open a second training facility for African-American doctors and nurses.
Williams continued to support the medical training and treatment of African- Americans throughout his career, and by his retirement in 1926, had helped estab¬ lish over 40 new hospitals.